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 (1914-1918) WWI Battles    
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anemone
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The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/25/2017 6:52:53 AM
Many historians and writers consider the Canadian victory at Vimy a defining moment for Canada, when the country emerged from under the shadow of Britain and felt capable of greatness. Canadian troops also earned a reputation as formidable, effective troops because of the stunning success. But it was a victory at a terrible cost, with more than 10,000 killed and wounded.

The Canadian Corps was ordered to seize Vimy Ridge in April 1917. [Map] Situated in northern France, the heavily-fortified seven-kilometre ridge held a commanding view over the Allied lines.

The Canadians would be assaulting over an open graveyard since previous French attacks had failed with over 100,000 casualties.


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Regards

Jim
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George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/25/2017 8:41:27 AM
I have been to Vimy Ridge. For Canadians who like to understand their military history, a trip to Vimy is a pilgrimage of sorts.

There will be a large commemorative event in a couple of weeks and I was planning to be there but I will not unfortunately.

Many Canadian school kids will be going and that's good.


The battle is often considered a seminal moment because it was the first time that all 4 divisions of the Corps attacked together.

The planning and use of innovative tactics was superb.

One officer, Brig. Ross commented, "In those few minutes, I witnessed the birth of a nation".

Some think that that is an extreme statement because we were 50 years old at the time as a Dominion but always operating as Britain's little brother.
The people at home were filled with pride. This was magnificent.



Casualties were high but the battle was planned and executed brilliantly. Note that British General Byng was still in command of the Corps at this time. He was due for promotion and Arthur Currie would take over.

The Corps was beginning to be noted for its competency and indeed, Arthur Currie used to like to brag that from Vimy on, the Canadian Corps never lost a battle.

However, Currie would never point to Vimy as the high point for the Canadian Corps. Strategically, it was not that important. Symbolically, it certainly was.

Currie would likely point to Hill 70 or the multiple battles of the last 100 days and especially, the Battle of Canal-du-Nord as marvels of military planning and execution.


Thousands of British and French soldiers had died trying to force the Germans from the ridge and they had failed so when the Canadians did it, there was shock and praise all around.

Certainly some of the praise was over the top.

The New York Tribune reported that the Canadians had fielded a better army than any that Napoleon Bonaparte had fielded. That could be considered excess.

One French officer when told of reports that Vimy had fallen is reported to have said. "C'est impossible".

He was told that the Canadians had done it and then said, "Ah, Les Canadiens. C'est possible".


So again, strategically it was not that important at all.

But for the British war effort, it was certainly a morale booster and for the Canadians, well if they didn't feel that they were the best that the British army had to offer, they did when they seized the Pimple on the top of the ridge and watched the Germans retreat over the Douai plain.

Lord Byng had this to say:


Quote:
“There they stood on Vimy Ridge, on the 9th day of April, 1917. Men from Quebec stood shoulder to shoulder with men from Ontario, men from the Maritimes with men from British Columbia, and there was forged a nation tempered by the fires of sacrifice and hammered on the anvil of high adventure.”



It was said that Hitler ordered that this monument be left undamaged, not because of any great respect for Canadians but because it is a monument to peace, featuring a mother in mourning for her lost sons.




I have always found this painting by an Australian, William Longstaff to be emotive. I understand that there are other pieces that use the "ghost theme" at other battles.

It is called the Ghosts of Vimy Ridge




I would be happy to discuss the ins and outs of the battle because it did feature many of the innovations developed by the British and Commonwealth.

It is hard to say that it all went so well because the casualties were high but the Corps did accomplish something that no other country's forces had been able to, to that point.

Anyway gotta go. Family gathering about 3 hours away.

Cheers,

George




anemone
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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/25/2017 9:17:33 AM
I too have been to Vimy- on our way to Arras and Albert; and was touched emotionally by the enormous,brooding figure of a mother looking out over the Plain of Douai- mourning those who were lost in this magnificent venture.A truly sombre sight.This was about twenty years ago and I remember the remains of the trenches there-all grassed over then.

Although the actual assault was made on the 9th April-there was much to do in March including an intensive artillery barrage.To manage the logistics associated with the increased artillery, Royal Artillery staff officer Major Alan Brooke (CIGS in WW2) developed coordinated communication and transport plans to work in conjunction with the complex barrage plans.

Regards

Jim
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Phil Andrade
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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/25/2017 4:57:22 PM
It's certainly an imposing site: I visited it thirty odd years ago and remember it with a particular clarity.

I think it's the view of the Douai plain beneath....such a dominating feature in a landscape that is otherwise drab
As a killing ground, it's second to none: look no further than the massive French military cemetery at Souchez, along with its grim ossuary, to appreciate how much blood this ground soaked up.

The very sight of such a monumental testimony to slaughter on that scale makes one all the more aware of what Canada achieved here.

Regards, Phil




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scoucer
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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/25/2017 5:25:42 PM

Quote:
It's certainly an imposing site: I visited it thirty odd years ago and remember it with a particular clarity.

I think it's the view of the Douai plain beneath....such a dominating feature in a landscape that is otherwise drab
As a killing ground, it's second to none: look no further than the massive French military cemetery at Souchez, along with its grim ossuary, to appreciate how much blood this ground soaked up.

The very sight of such a monumental testimony to slaughter on that scale makes one all the more aware of what Canada achieved here.

Regards, Phil --Phil Andrade









Trevor
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Some swim with the stream. Some swim against the stream. Me - I´m stuck somewhere in the woods and can´t even find the stupid stream.

George
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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/25/2017 10:33:59 PM
Thanks for the comments and to Trevor, the pictures.

When I was there, so many years ago now, I did have a chance to enter the tunnels from which the Canadians waited until it was time for battle.

The Canadian university students escorted us into the tunnels and we could see the markings and art work that the soldiers had left.

Most of the scratchings were simple, just a name and maybe a regiment and a home town. It seemed to be a "remember me" moment before battle.

That's how I saw it.


There were still a few WW1 vets alive at the time and the guides told us that they had met a Canadian soldier just a couple of weeks before and who had fought there.

He was standing at the opening to the tunnel and commented that he knew this tunnel and had been in this spot. The students humoured him but doubted whether he could remember something like that accurately from so long ago.

Then he told them that not far from this entrance was a "shunt". A shunt was a cut away in the chalk where a dressing station or ammunition could be stored.

He said that a good buddy of his had scratched a maple leaf into the chalk and put his initials in the middle of the leaf. The leaf was drawn close to the ground where the soldier had been resting.

I don't remember the initials.

So the old fellow toddled along and stopped and said, "this is the shunt". One of the students shined his flashlight into the corner of the space and you can guess what they found; there was a maple leaf with the initials that the old soldier had described.

I asked them what they thought and one said, "we were all freaked out".


George

anemone
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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/26/2017 3:55:51 AM
So this is Vimy Ridge's Centennial Year.

General Byng,after weeks of careful preparation; chose to attack with all four Canadian Divisions ,two brigades up and one in reserve-2nd Division also had British 13th Brigade.There was a massive creeping barrage to support the infantry-there was one flaw-1st and 2nd Divisions on the right of the attack- had to advance one to two miles beyond the range of their creeping barrage-however Byng had this covered by covertly digging in at night- eleven extra batteries closer to the target- to cover this issue. Byng's entire plan was based on speed.However the RFC recce planes constantly overhead had forewarned the Germans of an imminent attack.

Regards

Jim
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Phil Andrade
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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/26/2017 4:52:42 AM
Vimy Ridge overshadows: not just in the literal, topographical sense, but in the historiographical sense, too.

Currie himself would appear to have agreed

I'm not raining on the parade here.

Regards, Phil
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"That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

anemone
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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/26/2017 6:33:22 AM
I think that at this juncture-it ought to be said that the entire enterprise at Vimy Ridge- was Canadian; but was part and parcel of a major initiative in that ares- which included a British 3rd Army attack away on the Canadians right flank.

Regards

Jim
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George
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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/26/2017 7:27:17 AM

Quote:
I think that at this juncture-it ought to be said that the entire enterprise at Vimy Ridge- was not just Canadian; but was in conjunction with British 3rd Army on the Canadians right flank .However this thread is meant ostensibly to examine the Canadian enterprise -at least to start with.Should commentators wish to bring into this discussion -the British effort- than so be it.

Regards

Jim
--anemone



Hello Jim,

In conjunction implies that British troops, in strength, were on the ridge.

Vimy Ridge was a part of the Battle of Arras and one of the assignments for the Canadian Corps was to protect the northern flank of Horne's 3rd Army who were attacking simultaneously to the south. In that, the Corps was successful as the British also had a good day.

British 3rd Army attacked in their sector with 10 divisions and they moved forward seizing the black, brown and blue lines.

This Battle of Arras was part of the British commitment to the French to keep the heat on the Germans while the French Nivelle offensive did what it was supposed to do.

Haig wanted Arras to be over. He had bigger things planned in Flanders.

But it didn't end at Vimy. The 2nd and 3rd Battle of the Scarpe and in which Currie's 1st Div played a role were costly and largely unsuccessful.

Perhaps the only bright spot in those efforts was the holding of Fresnoy by CDN 1st Div.

EDIT: Check that. We must not forgot Anzac Corps at Bullecourt.

My only objection Jim is that while this is a discussion of Vimy Ridge, the wording of your post does steal some of the thunder.


The Battle of Vimy Ridge was one of the few areas that the Germans had not abandoned during their retreat to the Hindenburg Line and it was the four Canadian divisions that tossed them off.

Having said that, artillery was important in this battle and British artillery played a large role. From memory it seems to me that the Brits laid down the creeping barrage while Canadian artillery focused on counter-battery fire.

The importance of the RFC to this battle should be noted as the planes were used to spot and sometimes attack German positions. 275 aircraft and 421 casualties were taken by the RFC during the whole Battle of Arras.

I would also note that the British 3rd Army was employing similar tactics to the right of the Canadians as the whole British and Commonwealth was developing sophisticated planning and execution of set piece battles.


Cheers,

George

anemone
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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/26/2017 8:20:36 AM
The Canadian infantry attack went in at 0530 and by 0730 the two left side Divisions ie,3rd and 4th were expected to have attained their objectives.The two right hand Divisions 1st and 2nd had much futher to go distance wise and through defended woods and villages,such as Farbus and like the 3rd Brithish Army division on their right had to go through defence lines coded Black ,Red, Blue and Brown; and were expected to be on their target by 1320.

regards

Jim
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George
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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/26/2017 8:22:00 AM

Quote:
Vimy Ridge overshadows: not just in the literal, topographical sense, but in the historiographical sense, too.

Currie himself would appear to have agreed

I'm not raining on the parade here.

Regards, Phil
--Phil Andrade


Indeed, Canadians with only a passing interest in this part of our history will point to Vimy Ridge as a shining moment for the Corps and for Canada.

But strategically, it was not that significant. It was a bright spot in the Battle of Arras.

There was debate over where the site of this memorial to Canada's war dead and missing should be.


The final decision was made by the Canadian Battlefields War Commission.

It had 8 sites from which to choose. At the end of the war, it was the Imperial War Graves Commission that issued the number of memorial sites that a country would receive and Canada was allotted 8.

Within Canada there had been a competition for a memorial design and Walter Allward's creations were selected. His models are on display at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa. His was selected from 160 submissions.

The Commission selected the site partly because of geography. This large monument sitting atop the ridge is an imposing site as you drive up the road to it.


Quote:
“I would not want to have the impression left that Vimy was our greatest battlefield,”


So said General Arthur Currie. I believe that he initially would have selected a position at Passchendaele.


But some of the mythology of the Canadian Corps has been tied to the events at Vimy.

We tend to ignore the logistical and artillery support of the British because this was the first time that the Corps, our little national "army", had fought as one, and they won together.

We conveniently ignore the role of the 51st Highland Division who seized the southern shoulder of the ridge.

If the Brits or French had taken this ridge which had stymied both for so long, I don't think that more than a passing line in a history book would have been found.

It was however, brilliantly executed by the Canadian Corps and the photos of those Canadians, who included many immigrants from Britain, standing on the ridge is inspiring to Canadians.




anemone
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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/26/2017 8:46:35 AM
I append a statement fom Liddell Hart's "History of the First World War"which I confess has me wondering as to it's veracity :-


Quote:
On April 9th Allenby's 3rd Army opened the spring offensive-taking the long sought after Vimy Ridge,but failed to develop it's initial success,and maintained attack too long after resistance had hardened


PS I thought Byng's Canadian Corps was attache to British 1st Army

Regards

Jim
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MikeMeech
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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/26/2017 8:52:29 AM

Quote:

Quote:
I think that at this juncture-it ought to be said that the entire enterprise at Vimy Ridge- was not just Canadian; but was in conjunction with British 3rd Army on the Canadians right flank .However this thread is meant ostensibly to examine the Canadian enterprise -at least to start with.Should commentators wish to bring into this discussion -the British effort- than so be it.

Regards

Jim
--anemone



Hello Jim,

In conjunction implies that British troops, in strength, were on the ridge.

Vimy Ridge was a part of the Battle of Arras and one of the assignments for the Canadian Corps was to protect the northern flank of Horne's 3rd Army who were attacking simultaneously to the south. In that, the Corps was successful as the British also had a good day.

British 3rd Army attacked in their sector with 10 divisions and they moved forward seizing the black, brown and blue lines.

This Battle of Arras was part of the British commitment to the French to keep the heat on the Germans while the French Nivelle offensive did what it was supposed to do.

Haig wanted Arras to be over. He had bigger things planned in Flanders.

But it didn't end at Vimy. The 2nd and 3rd Battle of the Scarpe and in which Currie's 1st Div played a role were costly and largely unsuccessful.

Perhaps the only bright spot in those efforts was the holding of Fresnoy by CDN 1st Div.

EDIT: Check that. We must not forgot Anzac Corps at Bullecourt.

My only objection Jim is that while this is a discussion of Vimy Ridge, the wording of your post does steal some of the thunder.


The Battle of Vimy Ridge was one of the few areas that the Germans had not abandoned during their retreat to the Hindenburg Line and it was the four Canadian divisions that tossed them off.

Having said that, artillery was important in this battle and British artillery played a large role. From memory it seems to me that the Brits laid down the creeping barrage while Canadian artillery focused on counter-battery fire.

The importance of the RFC to this battle should be noted as the planes were used to spot and sometimes attack German positions. 275 aircraft and 421 casualties were taken by the RFC during the whole Battle of Arras.

I would also note that the British 3rd Army was employing similar tactics to the right of the Canadians as the whole British and Commonwealth was developing sophisticated planning and execution of set piece battles.


Cheers,

George

--George


Hi George

The Canadian Corps for Vimy consisted of five Divisions, the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Canadian and the 5th British Division. The 13th Brigade of the latter was attached to the Canadian 2nd Division, basically because the 2nd Divisions front widened after the initial attack and 13th Brigade filled this gap between the main body of 2 Div. and the 3rd Division. This resulted in the fighting around Goulot Wood, mainly by the Royal West Kent's and KOSB. Here they were fired on directly by German artillery over open sights, they responded by using rifle grenades to take out the protecting German MGs then attacked the gunners giving no quarter, they used their own Lewis guns and captured German Maxims to shoot down the retreating Germans.
The 5th Division's artillery and MG companies were all incorporated into the Canadian Corps fire plan as were the British I Corps artillery assets plus most, if not all, of the First Army's heavy artillery. I think there were three Counter-Battery Groups of Heavy artillery; CB Group 1 - 2nd (Canadian) Heavy Artillery Group, CB Group 2 - 50th HAG (British), CB Group 3 - 76th HAG (British). Other HAGs gave direct support to the divisions in action.
Some historians give the manpower figures used at Vimy as 170,000 troops 97,000 being Canadian. Most of the non Canadian were in the artillery support or the four British tunnelling companies as well as the 5th Division.
A copy of the 13th Infantry Brigades orders, dated 4 April 1917 are available in the Canadian archives stamped with the Canadian 4th Infantry Brigade's stamp dated 5 April 1917.

Also rather confusing is the statement that both the French and British 'failed' to take the ridge before the Canadian success. While the French did indeed fail to take and hold the ridge during the Artois Offensives during 1915, the 'British', before the Canadian spearheaded attack, had not made an attack to take the ridge. The only British 'attack' I can find is the British counter-attack in May 1916 after a German attack (I think one of the main aims of this German attack I believe appears to be to disrupt British tunnelling operations). If anyone knows of a major British offensive to take the ridge during 1916 I would be interested in the details.

British troops were fighting and dying on the ridge, not in as great numbers as the Canadians but they still deserve to be remembered in this 100th Anniversary year, that is not underplaying the Canadian achievement but part of the history of the battle.

Mike

anemone
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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/26/2017 9:25:16 AM
This battle is not generally considered the greatest achievement of the Canadian Corps in strategic importance or results obtained, it was the first instance in which all four Canadian divisions, made up of troops drawn from all parts of the country, fought as a cohesive formation. The image of national unity and achievement is what, according to one of many recent patriotic narratives, initially gave the battle importance for Canada.The taking of Vimy Ridge was and remains a proud day in Canadian history

Regards

jim
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George
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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/26/2017 10:18:13 AM
From one Canadian account.


Quote:
British Forces
Vimy is properly considered an Allied victory rather than purely a Canadian one. While the Canadian Corps planned the battle and provided the majority of participants, British participation was also sizeable.

British I Corps provided 132 heavy artillery pieces and 102 field guns to the 863 of the Canadian Corps, or 21 percent of the artillery involved.2
Of the 13 brigades of infantry employed in the assault, one entire brigade was British (the 13th Brigade of the British 5th Division).
16 Squadron of the Royal Flying Corps employed 24 aircraft as artillery spotters from 1 April to 13 April, losing three.
Considerable effort was also made by British logistical units throughout the Lines of Communication supporting the assault.


In addition, the 51st Highlanders were operating on the extreme southern shoulder of the ridge. I can't say whether this constitutes part of the Vimy attack or part of the objectives of Horne's 3rd army.


Perhaps I have done an inadequate job of indicating that the Corps was part of the British Army and specifically, that the British infantry were active at Vimy Ridge so I hope that this does it. I do try at most turns to acknowledge the integrated nature.

This was a great Canadian victory and we have not even addressed the details of preparation or the battle itself.

I am sensitive to British sensibilities regarding their relationship with the "colonials". Too much praise seems to rankle.

We do know that they were there. We do know that the Corps did not have the mass of artillery necessary to fight this battle. We know that changes in the way that the Canadians fought were not unique though there were some innovations by the Canadians.

All British troops were learning at the much the same pace though the Canadians embraced new concepts readily and the Corps structure supported the use of the concepts.

I have been trying to emphasize that this battle is significant more because of the effect that it had on the development of Canada as a nation than it was strategically. This was a most "Canadian" battle and really, for the first time.

Even with British support and a British brigade attached to CDN 2nd div., I think that we may still acknowledge this as a victory for the Canadian Corps.

And I do not mind discussing the role of British forces. It is historical fact after all.



General Byng had determined that the ground in front of CDN 2nd div. would be the toughest nut to crack. The features were most irregular and it was felt that the artillery would have a tougher time to soften up this sector. The area curved to the right a bit and that caused problems for the artillery assigned to blast wire. I'm not sure why but that is what I read.

So even though the 2nd had a shorter distance to travel, it would be a tough slog. There was concern that the German defenders in front of 2nd Div. would not receive as much damage from artillery. So Gen. Byng assigned British 13rd Brigade to be at the disposal of Gen. Burstall's 2nd.

All of the 8 tanks allotted to the Corps were in the 2nd Div. sector. They were useless and got bogged down in the mud.

British 13th Brigade played a more important role in phases 3 and 4 of the battle than in phases 1 and two.

Once the Red Line in the CDN 2nd sector had been secured the British 13 brigade jumped in to assist in taking the Blue and Brown lines and beyond.
They fought well and were described as "resilient"

I presume that they were also gassed by the desperate Germans at this point. This slowed the attack because it's hard to fight in respirators but once the Canadians and Brits realized it was ONLY tear gas, they took off their respirators and let them hang.

The Germans were still firing artillery at the Canadians and Brits over open sights with 77's at a distance of 50 metres.

Canadian soldiers and Brits from 1st Battalion, Royal West Kent Reg. and 2nd battalion of King's Own Scottish Borderers were on the Brown line by 2:15 PM. They fired 3 white rockets to indicate that they were on the objective.

The German gunners? Well they fired over those open sights until charged by the CDN and Brits. They then threw their hands up and asked for mercy. But the allied soldiers were incensed and as CDN soldier W.J. Sheppard said:

"Fritz lambasted us 'till we got right up to him. They threw their hands up and said, 'mercy, mercy'. I don't thing that they got much mercy. "

The 2nd Div and the British 13th brigade had to consolidate at that point and in fact, pulled back just a bit because they were being sniped at great cost. So they set up interlocking fields of fire and the engineers came in with wire and fortified the position.

The descriptions of the actual fighting are horrific. The ground had been churned up and men were getting stuck in the mire. They were alternately wearing respirators or tugging them down around their necks when the air seemed a little clearer. They would put them back in place if the gas concentration was too much for them.

A good deal of the fighting was hand to hand, indicating that the Germans weren't going to relinquish this ground easily.

The wounded were found clinging to the mud slicked walls of shell craters. Some were all in to prevent sliding into the water at the bottom only to suffer death by drowning. Many cried for water. Others stoically accepted their fate or indeed, were removed to the RAP.

Perhaps the assessment of the status of wounded is a good indicator of the intensity of the fighting on Vimy Ridge.


Medical Officer Andrew Macphail had noted that in most previous battles that the ratio of light wounded (ie walking) to severe wounded (ie stretcher cases) was normally about 3:1.

At Vimy, the ratio was 1:1. That meant of course that if wounded at Vimy, it was more likely to be a serious wound.

Historian Tim Cook has said that for the infantry soldier at Vimy, there was little thought that a nation was being forged in fire.

They were more concerned about survival in the mud and slop as they tried to make their way up the slope. The fighting was of the most desperate kind.

Cheers,

George






George
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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/26/2017 10:34:15 AM
This is a map that shows the deployment of the Canadian divisions at Vimy Ridge.

You will find the British 13th Brigade of the 5th division in the sector allotted to CDN 2nd div. See them near the Brown Line.



George
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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/26/2017 10:36:39 AM
And the German units opposing.

The map is large so I have posted it as a READ MORE

[Read More]

anemone
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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/26/2017 10:37:43 AM
For the record Horne was British 1st Army GOC and Allenby was British 3rd Army GOC.In a previous post- which I doubt if you saw-Allenby was given the credit for taking Vimy Ridge-this was stated in Liddell Hart's History of the Great War !!!??? Keegan however says quite the opposite-"The success of the Canadians was sensational,in a single bound the awful slopes of Vimy Ridge where the French had bled to death in their thousands in 1915- was taken"

Regards

Jim
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George
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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/26/2017 11:05:35 AM
Thanks for the correction Jim. I may have got it right in a previous post and then screwed up on the last.

Mike Meech reported that there are no records of British assaults on Vimy prior to the battle on April 9. I cannot find one either.

The French tried a couple of times and that includes Moroccan troops.

Cheers,

George

Phil Andrade
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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/26/2017 11:15:32 AM
George,

You're discerning in citing the ratio of light to severe wounds in this fighting.

All the indications from the casualty figures returned in April and May 1917 suggest fighting of severity remarkable even for that ghastly war.

One third of Canadian casualties at Vimy were fatal. That's a high ratio.

In all , the Arras offensive lasted six weeks and cost close to 160,000 British and Dominion casualties,of whom 50,000 were posted as killed or missing. This was one of the highest casualty rates suffered by Commonwealth forces in the war.

It's worth mentioning that roughly twenty thousand Germans were taken prisoner: implying eight casualties for every one captured.

On the Somme, it had taken eleven British killed or wounded to capture one prisoner , so the improvement had been significant.

But the Canadians at Vimy had truly surpassed, taking 4,000 prisoners at a cost of 11,000 casualties,

Regards, Phil
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anemone
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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/26/2017 11:45:01 AM
By nightfall on 12 April 1917, the Canadian Corps was in firm control of the ridge. The Corps suffered 10,602 casualties: 3,598 killed and 7,004 wounded.

The German Sixth Army suffered approx.20,000 casualties all causes with approximately 4,000 men becoming prisoners of war.ie. 16000 K,W and Miessing.

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Jim
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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/26/2017 12:11:17 PM
Returning to the actual battle -it would seem that 1st and 2nd Canadian Divisions had the most difficult of tasks.The Divisions were told not to advance in line,their capture was by platoons and sections, using fire and movement tactics-grenade and the Lewis gun- clearing trenches,dugouts and strongpoints-always on the move. Byng anticipated hold ups; but none occurred-the job got done piecemeal and thoroughly

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Jim
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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/26/2017 12:16:52 PM

Quote:
This is a map that shows the deployment of the Canadian divisions at Vimy Ridge.

You will find the British 13th Brigade of the 5th division in the sector allotted to CDN 2nd div. See them near the Brown Line.


--George



Thanks George,

This excellent map clearly shows the situation on Valmy Ridge, April 1917,

attacking fortified high ground is always tough!!

MD
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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/26/2017 2:02:04 PM

Quote:
Returning to the actual battle -it would seem that 1st and 2nd Canadian Divisions had the most difficult of tasks.The Divisions were told not to advance in line,their capture was by platoons and sections, using fire and movement tactics-grenade and the Lewis gun- clearing trenches,dugouts and strongpoints-always on the move. Byng anticipated hold ups; but none occurred-the job got done piecemeal and thoroughly

Regards

Jim
--anemone


I'm not sure that I would concur. All four divisions had a tough go but it was the 4th division that was charged with taking the highest point of the ridge, Hill 145. Just to the north of it was the Pimple, slightly lower than 145 but with a clear view of the flanks of the Canadians.

From Hill 145 the Germans commanded two valleys. They could see everything that was developing.

From this high point the Germans were able to direct artillery fire upon the ridge and until German artillery could be neutralized, it took its toll.

As well the 4th division was being cut apart by MG and rifle fire from Hill 145.


4th div had the shortest but steepest run of all the divisions.

The 261st Prussians were on top of this position and it had been well prepared and well fortified by the Germans.

Defence in depth with four lines that ringed the hill. On the reverse slope they had created deep dugouts that were difficult to hit with artillery.

MG's were well sighted to interlock fire. There was no way up the slope that wasn't covered by MG fire.

Byng didn't feel that he had enough troops to take Hill 145 and the Pimple on the same day so he tried to mask off the Pimple with smoke. Gas was sent in as well. So while the 4th attacked the hill, the Germans just fired through the smoke and gas from the Pimple.


Historian Tim Cook's analysis suggests that of the four divisions, 4th division's sector favoured the enemy greater than in any other position.


Descriptions of the attack indicate that it was hellish.

The slope was pock marked by shell craters that were four metres deep. Concussion from shells blew men up in the air and then they would roll into a crater, slide to the bottom which was full of water and corpses. Yelling for help, they were largely ignored because those were the orders.
Move forward.

The craters were a problem because they slowed the attack and many could not keep up with the barrage. When that happens, soldiers are exposed and the German MG's and howitzers took advantage. The men had been instructed to throw bombs into the German positions and into the craters even if they couldn't see anyone.

This they did but they also had to hustle to try to keep up with the creeping barrage. So a lot of Germans were left alive.

That left a difficult task for the follow-up units and the Germans didn't quit. They had no chance but the follow-up fighting was grim and ruthless.

I want to mention that the removal of the wounded from the battle field was not up to snuff as it would be in future battles. A lot of men with serious wounds died because it took hours to transport them to the rear.

If you check the topo map that I provided you can see the high ground of Hill 145 and the Pimple beyond near the village of Givenchy.

The attack on 145 by the 72nd battalion of the 4th stalled about 300 m from the village. 262 officers and OR of the 72nd had done their best but they were holding their position after a loss of 202 killed and wounded.

Other units of the 4th were committed to the attack on Hill 145 but the Canadians were stopped and the losses were heavy.

85th Highlander work battalion

With so many men from 6 battalions injured or dead and with victory only assured by the reduction of the position at Hill 145, it was decided to send in the 85th Highlanders.

These men had not been in France long and they had been used as work parties to prepare for the attack by the assault units.

Other highland regiments had been teasing them because their kilts hadn't arrived and they were in long pants.

But the div commander David Watson was desperate, so in they went in the PM of April 9. By 6 PM they attacked Hill 145.

They were waiting for the start of the creeping barrage that never came. It had been called off by someone in the rear. The fear was that they could not be accurate enough to ensure that friendly fire would not kill the Nova Scotians.

So the story goes, there was a wild Highland scream as the Cape Bretoners left the start line and ran toward the Germans.

And the Germans were caught flat footed. They had been conditioned to associate an attack with a barrage and there was none.

This untried battalion tore through the German positions. Using rifle, grenade and bayonets, they destroyed many German positions.

The Germans did recover enough to take a toll but when it was over, the 85th owned most of Hill 145, all but the most eastern side.

It was not until April 12 that the rest of Hill 145 and the Pimple were taken and that's a story in itself.


George



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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/27/2017 3:19:38 AM
At this juncture George I do have recant-12 Brigade of te 4th Division became victims in a tactical mistake made by the CO of 87th Btn of 11 Brigade wishing to rush the German trenches,having requested the artillery to leave the German second line trench alone.When the attack went in 12 brigade were raked by fire from that very trench and were stalled.So this left this trench ,Hill 145 and the Pimple as untaken targets of the 4th Division.Your post admirably shows how this was achieved.

NB.The Arras offensive (Allenby) had been divided into ten distinct actions, comprising battles, and flanking, subsidiary and subsequent attacks.

The first two actions of the first phase, The Battle of Vimy Ridge and the simultaneous First Battle of the Scarpe, took place during the 9th –14th April.

These are considered to have been a great success for the British and Imperial troops.

I believe this answers the question as to why the victory at VR was attributed to Allenby.

PS. Do you have the casualties for each of the four Divisions George???


Regards

Jim
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George
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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/27/2017 6:56:12 AM
Hello Jim,

Those German trenches at 145 that were left unscathed by the bombardment were not occupied according to Canadian intelligence collected.

Someone decided that it would be best to leave them intact so that they could serve as a command area for the Canadians once they got that far.

Why it wasn't anticipated that the Germans would just re-occupy when the time came, I do not know.

Jim, when we combine the steep slope with the German defences on Hill 145, I think that I have a pretty good argument that it was the 4th division that had the toughest row to hoe. Those defences included concrete and steel emplacements and deep concrete hardened bunkers and tunnels.
Hill 145 and The Pimple were formidable fortresses. As well, they were defended by Prussians who, so I am told, were formidable opponents no matter where they were sent in.



Quote:
I believe this answers the question as to why the victory at VR was attributed to Allenby.


I'm not following. Who attributed the success at Vimy Ridge to Allenby? Not the Canadians I can assure you.


Casualties by division? I am looking. I may have to drag out Tim Cook's, Shock Troops. But as I recall, his treatment of the Vimy battle was lengthy and he devoted a chapter to each division.

Cheers,

George








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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/27/2017 7:30:29 AM
Post f mine carried forward from way back

"I append a statement fom Liddell Hart's "History of the First World War"which I confess has me wondering as to it's veracity :-"

Quote:
On April 9th Allenby's 3rd Army opened the spring offensive-taking the long sought after Vimy Ridge,but failed to develop it's initial success,and maintained attack too long after resistance had hardened

I am in agreement with you vis a vis Canadian 4th division

[quiote]Someone decided that it would be best to leave them intact so that they could serve as a command area for the Canadians once they got that far.

Why it wasn't anticipated that the Germans would just re-occupy when the time came, I do not know.

When the Canadian assault came in,the German second line troops at 143 managed to man their positions. and hang on; enfilading the front line of the 12th Brigade-so causing them to stall.Under fire from two sides the 12th could not move and thereby lost about an hour in their task.

Regards

Jim
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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/27/2017 7:49:20 AM
Craters like this one could be found all over the ridge. This one is called Montreal crater and it is one of the deeper ones.



The weather on April 9, 1917 was miserable. It was alternately snowing or sleeting or raining and the battle ground was a soggy mess.

The craters were slick with wet mud and water collected in the bottom.

Men reported that if they stood still, they would sink to the point that they could not get out so it was best to keep moving.

There are also many reports of men who fought in socks or barefoot as they had lost boots in the muck.

This is the preserved battle ground at Vimy today. It is all grass covered but the craters caused by artillery and mines are clear.

The trees of course were not present during the battle.




And for some perspective on the positions of the divisions, you can see the monument sitting atop Hill 145 with the final objective, the Pimple, to the left. This is where the 4th division was cut apart. The 3rd div, was also being raked on its left flank by fire out of 145 and the Pimple.



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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/27/2017 8:02:19 AM
Muchos Gracias for the brilliant illustrations George

I thought I should "cement" the tie up of Vimy Ridge with Allenby and the Battle of Arras


Quote:
At Arras the British were to divert German troops from the French front and to take the German-held high ground that dominated the plain of Douai.

The British effort was a relatively broad front assault between Vimy in the north-west and Bullecourt in the south-east.

After considerable bombardment, Canadian troops of the First Army in the north fought Battle of Vimy Ridge and captured the ridge.

The Third Army in the centre advanced astride the Scarpe River, making the deepest penetration since trench warfare began and in the south, the Fifth Army attacked the Hindenburg Line and was frustrated by the defence in depth, making only minimal gains.
Wikipedia

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Jim
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George
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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/27/2017 9:01:10 AM
Jim, why not write a summary in your own words. These wiki articles are barely worth the effort to post them.

Look at the summary in toto of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. One sentence.

I have been trying to summarize what I have learned and it takes me a good deal of time to do that so if you can resist the urge to post in this manner, we would all benefit from your own opinions.

Cheers,

George

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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/27/2017 9:27:02 AM
George-I have been perplexed throughout the thread as to which Army the CEC was responsible to in this event; and I still do not know for sure.They are shown as a 1st Army Corps; but seemingly involved in a 3rd Army action.

I appreciate that it should matter little to me-either way- but it niggles that I am not fully informed.I agree that plugs of Wikipedia irritate; but thought it best to find a concrete answer.I do however now realise my folly in bothering about something that I cannot change in any case.

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Jim
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George
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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/27/2017 9:57:29 AM
And if the wiki answer is insufficiently concrete or missing or shallow in its analysis, then what?

The page that you posted highlighted the 3 mile penetration of the British forces but the Battle of Arras in total cannot be considered a complete success. I am not sure how much it helped the French although many German divisions were occupied with the attacks.

Jim I think that wiki can be used like an encyclopaedia but cannot be the end point for any study. However, you can check the footnotes on the wiki article to see which sources the author used and then go to them if you wish.

Vimy Ridge I think fairly may be acknowledged as a bright spot in any otherwise inconsequential effort. And even at that, I cannot say that Vimy was in any way important strategically to the war effort.

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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/27/2017 10:12:03 AM
Why, I wonder, did the Canadian casuaties at Vimy include such a high proportion of dead ?

You would think that in a well planned and successfully executed operation - and Vimy was as good an exemplar of that as any - the recovery of wounded and the medical care they received would reflect the success by dint of a lower proportion of fatalites.

For some reason, it seems that an unusually high proportion of Canadians who were struck down in that battle were either killed outright or failed to survive their wounds.

George - I apologise for raising this again : it was you, after all, who brought it to our attention.

Of all Canada'a principal battles of the Great War - Second Ypres, Mount Sorrel, Vimy, Lens, Passchendaele and the Hundred Days, Vimy appears to stand preeminent in regard to percentage of fatalities among total casualties.

This is something that I need to check ; it doesn't look right.

Regards , Phil
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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/27/2017 10:25:45 AM

Quote:
Vimy Ridge I think fairly may be acknowledged as a bright spot in any otherwise inconsequential effort. And even at that, I cannot say that Vimy was in any way important strategically to the war effort.


Excellent summing up George- Vimy Ridge however- did mark a monumental change in the Canadian identity. Before this battle, Canadians were seen by other countries- only as country folk, but with their participation in the taking of Vimy Ridge, they were seen as strong, capable and well worthy of the appreciation of other countries. By taking Vimy Ridge, Canada proved it’s worth in the military standings of the entire world.

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Jim
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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/27/2017 10:45:00 AM

Quote:
Jim, why not write a summary in your own words. These wiki articles are barely worth the effort to post them.

Look at the summary in toto of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. One sentence.

I have been trying to summarize what I have learned and it takes me a good deal of time to do that so if you can resist the urge to post in this manner, we would all benefit from your own opinions.

Cheers,

George
--George


Couldn't agree more. And as I have said before, I will not "discuss" things with an article.
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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/27/2017 10:53:42 AM
George- what are you on about this time-I have already agreed with you about Wikipedia, and wrote what I thought further back, following your quotation above.

Regards

Jim
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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/27/2017 11:05:53 AM
Phil-Casualty Clearance was exceptionally poor at Vimy Ridge and subsequently many of the severely wounded died before receiving medical aid
A past relative of my daughter in law-a stretcher bearer himself- was severely wounded; but was left to die-a form of triage perhaps.


Regards

Jim
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George
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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/27/2017 11:07:47 AM

Quote:
George- what are you on about this time-I have already agreed with you about Wikipedia, and wrote what I thought further back, following your quotation above.

Regards

Jim
--anemone


Dunno. What am I on about? I have been out doing my power walk for the last hour or so.

So what are you on about Jim?

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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/27/2017 11:20:27 AM

Quote:
Jim, why not write a summary in your own words. These wiki articles are barely worth the effort to post them.

Look at the summary in toto of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. One sentence.

I have been trying to summarize what I have learned and it takes me a good deal of time to do that so if you can resist the urge to post in this manner, we would all benefit from your own opinions.

Cheers,

George




Quote:
George-I have been perplexed throughout the thread as to which Army the CEC was responsible to in this event; and I still do not know for sure.They are shown as a 1st Army Corps; but seemingly involved in a 3rd Army action.

I appreciate that it should matter little to me-either way- but it niggles that I am not fully informed.I agree that plugs of Wikipedia irritate; but thought it best to find a concrete answer.I do however now realise my folly in bothering about something that I cannot change in any case.

Regards

Jim


Regards

Jim
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