Witley, April 11, 1917

Wednesday         Weather is rotten for the time of the year shall appreciate a change No mail

And no release from quarantine, either.

Yesterday’s reports of the attack on Vimy Ridge emphasized the speed and efficacy of the action. It had not all been that way. In their attack on Hill 145, strongly defended by Prussian troops, the Fourth Division were slaughtered by machine gun fire from a German trench, a trench from which a Canadian order had called off artillery fire. There were “small hills of khaki” where the Canadian casualties lay in the mud. (1)

The 85th Battalion of Nova Scotia Highlanders was brought forward — troops that had not been in France very long and were not expected to see action yet. But there was no one else, so they prepared to attack at 6 pm. Seeing the hillside littered with Canadian soldiers from the earlier onslaught, the commanders did not order a barrage, so the Nova Scotians attacked without artillery support. It was a strangely silent battlefield, the screams of the dying not drowned out by shellfire, and the Prussian defenders were taken by surprise. “No one in their right mind attacked without the protection of a barrage.” (2) After brief fighting, at bayonet distance, Hill 145 was taken.

vimy wounded mikan 3521878All that remained was the mopping up — the domestic phrase for the miserable job of following behind the first waves of attackers, to clean out nests of fighters overrun in the advance, to take prisoners and march them back behind the lines, using them, often, to help bring in the wounded.(1)

All that remained was the mopping up, and “The Pimple” — the northernmost stronghold on the ridge, a little lower than Hill 145, but still providing the Germans a vantage point on the ridge. It will be taken early tomorrow morning, and Vimy Ridge will be held by the Canadians.vimy-gallery0409-01 vigil.JPG

The Canadians hold it still.

(1) Cook, Tim. “The Battle for the Ridge,” Legion Magazine. March/April 2017.  28
(2) Cook, Tim. Shock Troops. Canadians Fighting the Great War Vol. 2 1917-1918. 2008. 135

The image of bringing in the wounded is from Library and Archives Canada. MIKAN 3521878. The image of a soldier standing guard at the Vimy Memorial a hundred years later is from a Globe and Mail report of the anniversary.

Copyright 2017. See “More about this project.”
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