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Vimy Ridge Significance



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The Great War—Battle of Vimy Ridge

The 1st, 2nd and 3rd Divisions fought on through the day, advancing steadily through German defences, in some cases having to overcome determined enemy resistance, in others watching Germans flee to the east in the face of the assault. Thousands of wounded men, and also German prisoners, were taken back to Canadian lines. Many of the dead on both sides were lost to the mud, or buried where they lay, with makeshift markers.

By late afternoon on 9 April, the three divisions had captured all their objectives on schedule, and most of Vimy Ridge was in Canadian hands. At the deepest point of the advance, the Canadians had pushed the German army back almost 5 km — the greatest single Allied advance on the Western Front, to that point in the war. Things did not go as well for the soldiers of the 4th Division, commanded by Major-General David Watson. The 4th was assigned the far left flank of the assault on the ridge, which included the toughest objectives — Hill the highest point on the ridge, and the location today of the Vimy Memorial , and another high point called the Pimple. Each was heavily defended, ringed by well-fortified trenches, and with a clear view of the slopes up which Canadians would attack.

Vimy Ridge could not be held by the Canadians, unless these two high points were captured. Unfortunately, the pre-assault bombardment had not done enough damage to German positions on Hill and the Pimple. Making matters worse, during the opening attack many 4th Division units lost contact with the creeping artillery barrage that was meant to bring them safely onto the German lines. As a result, only minutes into the assault on 9 April, the leading waves of the 4th Division came under withering fire and were cut to pieces.

Many of the survivors were pinned down and unable to move. Among the early casualties were numerous junior officers — company and platoon leaders — whose loss added to the confusion, and hampered the flow of information to commanders at the rear. By nightfall, neither Hill nor the Pimple had been taken. The following afternoon, renewed artillery and infantry attacks, with help from 4th Division reserve battalions, finally put Hill in Canadian hands.

Two days later, on 12 April, the Pimple was also captured after an hour of fierce combat in driving snow. The four-day battle was over, and Vimy Ridge was finally in Allied hands — a stunning, but costly victory. The fighting left 3, Canadians dead and another 7, wounded. There were an estimated 20, casualties on the German side. Another 4, Germans were taken prisoner. The victory at Vimy Ridge was greeted with enthusiasm in Canada, and after the war the battle became a symbol of an awakening Canadian nationalism. One of the prime reasons is that soldiers from every region of Canada — fighting together for the first time as a single assaulting force in the Canadian Corps — had taken the ridge together.

A massive limestone memorial was built atop Hill , inscribed with the names of the 11, Canadians who died in France during the war with no known grave. The soaring white monument — a memorial to loss and sacrifice, rather than to military victory — has drawn visitors for nearly a century, fueling the Vimy legend and perhaps exaggerating its symbolism as the place where Canada came of age on the battlefield. Vimy was a proud moment for Canada, and an extraordinary military accomplishment. Yet the battle was strategically insignificant to the outcome of the war. The French offensive of of which Vimy was intended as a tactical diversion was a failure. In addition, no sustained Allied breakthrough followed either the assault on the ridge or the wider, British-led Battle of Arras of which Vimy was a part.

The war would rage on for another 19 months after Vimy, taking the lives of many of the Canadians who had survived and triumphed there. Other Canadian engagements, such as at Hill 70 in August , were equally impressive feats of arms. General Julian Byng was a British officer, as were dozens of other officers in the Corps, including Major Alan Brooke later Field Marshall, chief of the Imperial general staff in the Second World War who was instrumental in planning the artillery barrages at Vimy. And while most of the infantry that attacked the ridge were Canadian, they would not have been able to do so without the British artillery, engineers and supply units that supported them.

Britain and Canada fought together at Vimy Ridge — yet somehow Vimy acquired a reputation as the place where Canadians began standing apart from the British Empire see Hill 70 and Canadian Independence. It has also been argued that Vimy was mythologized in Canada because it occurred on Easter Monday, giving the battle religious significance see Easter in Canada. With the provinces represented by battalions from across the country working together in a painstakingly planned and carefully executed operation, the Canadian Corps became a metaphor for the nation itself.

Eloi Passchendaele Volume Two With numerous illustrations. Written by noted historian Tim Cook. From the Canadian War Museum. Note: a very large document. Search The Canadian Encyclopedia. Remember me. I forgot my password. Why sign up? Create Account. Suggest an Edit. Enter your suggested edit s to this article in the form field below. Accessed 11 October In The Canadian Encyclopedia.

Historica Canada. Article published July 20, ; Last Edited April 06, The Canadian Encyclopedia , s. Thank you for your submission Our team will be reviewing your submission and get back to you with any further questions. Thanks for contributing to The Canadian Encyclopedia. Article by Richard Foot. The four divisions of the Canadian Corps, fighting together for the first time, attacked the ridge from 9 to 12 April and captured it from the German army. Map of Canadian operations at Vimy Ridge from 9 to 12 April Aerial photograph of Vimy Ridge, 7 April Canadians soldiers advancing through German wire entanglements at Vimy Ridge.

April, Wounded soldiers are carried back from the front lines at Vimy Ridge, France, April Canadian soldiers returning from Vimy Ridge in France, May, Image courtesy of W. Previous Next. Mont Sorrel Somme Vimy Ridge Hill 70 Their reports and the experience of the Canadians at The Actions of St Eloi Craters in April , where mines had so altered and damaged the landscape as to render occupation of the mine craters by the infantry all but impossible, led to the decision to remove offensive mining from the central sector allocated to the Canadian Corps at Vimy Ridge.

Further British mines in the area were vetoed following the blowing by the Germans on 23 March of nine craters along no man's land as it was probable that the Germans were aiming to restrict an Allied attack to predictable points. The three mines already laid by nd Tunnelling Company were also dropped from the British plans. The mines were left in place after the assault and were only removed in the s. The gallery had been pushed silently through the clay, avoiding the sandy and chalky layers of the Vimy Ridge but by 9 April was still 21 metres 70 ft short of its target.

Trench raiding involved making small-scale surprise attacks on enemy positions, often in the middle of the night for reasons of stealth. All belligerents employed trench raiding as a tactic to harass their enemy and gain intelligence. A large-scale trench raid on 13 February , involving men from the 4th Canadian Division , resulted in casualties. As an example, a German trench raid launched by 79 men against the 3rd Canadian Division on 15 March was successful in capturing prisoners and causing damage. The RFC launched a determined effort to gain air superiority over the battlefield in support of the spring offensive. The Canadians considered activities such as artillery-observation and photography of opposing trench systems, troop movements and gun emplacements essential to continue their offensive.

Aerial reconnaissance was often a hazardous task because of the necessity of flying at slow speeds and at low altitude. The task was made more dangerous with the arrival of German air reinforcements, including the highly experienced and well equipped Jasta 11 Manfred von Richthofen which led to a sharp increase in RFC losses. German 6th Army commander General Ludwig von Falkenhausen was responsible for the Cambrai—Lille sector and commanded 20 divisions, plus reserves.

Three divisions were ultimately responsible for manning the frontline defences opposite the Canadian Corps. The 16th Bavarian Division was located opposite the village of Souchez and responsible for the defence of the northernmost section of the ridge. The division had been created in January by amalgamating existing Bavarian formations and had so far only opposed the Canadian Corps. Byng commanded four attacking divisions, one division in reserve and numerous support units. The 4th Canadian Division was responsible for the northern portion of the advance that included the capture of the highest point of the ridge, followed by the elaborately fortified Pimple just west of the village of Givenchy-en-Gohelle. The 3rd Canadian Division was responsible for the narrow central section of the ridge, including the capture of La Folie Farm.

The 1st Canadian Division was responsible for the broad southern sector of the corps advance and expected to cover the longest distance. Byng planned for a healthy reserve for contingencies that included the relief of forward troops, help in consolidating positions and aiding the 4th Canadian Division with the capture of the Pimple. As a result, the 9th Canadian Brigade and the British 15th and 95th Brigades were kept in corps reserve. Foreign intelligence gathering by the Germans, big Allied trench raids and troop concentrations seen west of Arras, made it clear to the Germans that a spring offensive in the area was being prepared. Munich was not undertaken because the extent of Canadian Corps artillery fire made it impracticable.

The preliminary phase of the Canadian Corps artillery bombardment began on 20 March , with a systematic two-week bombardment of German batteries, trenches and strong points. In the German account, their trenches and defensive works were almost completely demolished. The attack was to begin at am on Easter Monday , 9 April The attack was originally planned for the morning of 8 April Easter Sunday but it was postponed for 24 hours at the request of the French. The weather was cold and later changed to sleet and snow.

Thirty seconds later, engineers detonated the mine charges laid under no man's land and the German trench line, destroying a number of German strong points and creating secure communication trenches directly across no man's land. Field guns laid down a barrage that mostly advanced at a rate of yards 91 m in three minutes while medium and heavy howitzers established a series of standing barrages further ahead against known defensive systems. Shortly after am, the 1st Canadian Division captured the left half of its second objective, the Red Line and moved the 1st Canadian Brigade forward to mount an attack on the remainder. A mine explosion that killed many German troops of Reserve Infantry Regiment manning the front line, preceded the advance of the 3rd Canadian Division.

The remaining German troops could do no more than man temporary lines of resistance until later manning a full defence at the German third line. The only portion of the Canadian assault that did not go as planned was the advance of the 4th Canadian Division, collapsing almost immediately after exiting their trenches. The progress on the left flank was eventually impeded by harassing fire from the Pimple that was made worse when the creeping barrage got too far ahead of the advancing troops. Reserve units from the 4th Canadian Division came forward and once again attacked the German positions on the top of the ridge. Persistent attacks eventually forced the German troops holding the southwestern portion of Hill to withdraw, but only after they had run out of ammunition, mortar rounds, and grenades.

The British moved three fresh brigades up to the Red Line by am on 10 April to support the advance of the 1st and 2nd Canadian Division, whereupon they were to leapfrog existing units occupying the Red line and advance to the Blue Line. The 4th Canadian Division had made an attempt to capture the northern half of Hill at around pm, briefly capturing the peak before a German counterattack retook the position. The 4th Canadian Division faced difficulties at the start of the battle that forced it to delay its assault on the Pimple until 12 April.

By nightfall on 12 April , the Canadian Corps was in firm control of the ridge. The corps suffered 10, casualties: 3, killed and 7, wounded. Instead, the defensive system was a series of unmoving strong points and static lines of resistance, which the Allied artillery isolated and destroyed. Contemporary German sources viewed the action, at worst, as a draw, given that no breakthrough occurred following the attack.

The loss of Vimy Ridge forced the Germans to reassess their defensive strategy in the area. Four members of the Canadian Corps received the Victoria Cross , the highest military decoration awarded to British and Commonwealth forces for valour, for their actions during the battle: []. The Battle of Vimy Ridge has considerable significance for Canada. MacKenzie the recognition " The Canadian National Vimy Memorial is its largest and principal overseas war memorial. The grounds of the site are still honeycombed with wartime tunnels, trenches, craters and unexploded munitions and are largely closed for public safety.

The memorial was designed by Toronto architect and sculptor Walter Seymour Allward , who described it as a "sermon against the futility of war". The Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King was absent, it being well understood that he was reluctant to meet veterans and felt it more appropriate for a war veteran in Cabinet to act as minister in attendance. Queen Elizabeth II rededicated the restored monument on 9 April , during a ceremony commemorating the 90th anniversary of the battle. Veterans Affairs Canada maintains the memorial site.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. World War I battle April Canada United Kingdom. Unknown casualties 4, captured [4]. Nivelle Offensive, Western Front. See also: German attack on Vimy Ridge. Further information: Trench raiding. See also: Battle of Vimy Ridge order of battle. Main article: Canadian National Vimy Memorial. Crown Prince Rupprecht estimated 85, casualties for the 6th Army, with 3, men becoming prisoners of war at Vimy Ridge. Other casualties from the bombardment and the units sent as reinforcements and counterattack divisions are additional.

Outside of Canada the battle has much less significance and may simply be noted as being one part of the larger Battle of Arras. Retrieved 3 August The London Gazette. The London Gazette Supplement. The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved 23 April Architecture Canada. Toronto Star. Retrieved 8 April Retrieved 9 April Queen's Printer for Canada. Canadian Military History. XX 2 : 33— ISBN Vimy Ridge: A Canadian Reassessment.

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