Witley, April 10, 1917

Tuesday   We expected to come out of quarantine but didn’t Am feeling fairly well.

The newspapers are full of the attack on Vimy Ridge.

2017 04 10 headline.JPG

London’s Daily Express correspondent made it sound like a cake walk:

“The Canadians have Vimy Ridge, and are sitting on the far slope looking down on the Plain of Douai. They took it with comparatively little fighting, pushing from one line to the next as punctually as though meeting their enemies by appointment.” (1)

One who survived described the scene of “comparatively little fighting” like this:

“In one sense, it was a beautiful sight. It was still quite dark. Sleet was falling. There before us, frightfully close, was the edge of hell. It blazed, flashed and flickered, the bursting shells; and white and colored flares were fired frantically by a distracted enemy. And the flashing, flickering lights showed an infernal wall of twisting, boiling smoke and flame, against which stood out the distorted silhouettes of men advancing into it.” (2) .

Vimy advance LAC MICAN 3404765.jpgAs they had practiced, the infantry advanced behind a creeping barrage,”in a measured walk … as the iron discipline of the troops took over.”(3)  While some units “merely marched to their objective,” (4)  others fought their way forward with the throwing of grenades and the firing of rifles, the spraying of machine gun bullets and the stabbing of bayonets.

It was hardly “Victory in half an hour” as the Globe declared, but it was fast and unrelenting, for the plan was to capture the ridge before the Germans could bring up reinforcements.

Back in Witley, the War Diary of the Fifth Divisional Artillery records

“Weather has turned bitterly cold again. Sleet & snow & E. wind. News arrived of successful British attack. Canadian Corps on VIMY RIDGE did magnificently. A Divisional Tactical scheme which was to have taken place was postponed on account of the weather.” (5)

(1) Qtd in “Losing Vimy, Defence Wavers: British Press Comments.” The Globe (1844-1936). April 10, 1917. 2. Archive available from ProQuest Historical Newspapers.
(2) Gregory Clark, qtd in Cook, Tim. Shock Troops. Canadians Fighting the Great War Vol. 2 1917-1918. 2008.123.
(3) Cook. Shock Troops. 123.
(4) Cook, Tim. “The Battle for the Ridge.” Legion Magazine. March-April 2017. 27.
(5) War Diary of the Fifth Canadian Divisional Artillery. Vol. 3 (April 1917): 3-4 . Library and Archives of Canada.
The headline is from page 1 of the Globe, April 10, 1917.

The photograph, “Canadians advancing through German wire entanglements, Vimy Ridge, April 1917, (MIKAN 3404765) is from Library and Archives of Canada.

Copyright 2017. See “More about this project.”

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