- (Photo Courtesy of Brandi Murray it is an excerpt from her Great Grandfathers War Diary.)
The assault on Vimy Ridge, the northern part of the wider battle of Arras, began at 5:30 am on Easter Monday, April 9, 1917.
It was the first occasion on which all four divisions of the Canadian Corps attacked as a composite formation.
The Canadian achievement in capturing Vimy Ridge owed its success to a range of technical and tactical innovations, very powerful artillery preparation, sound and meticulous planning and thorough preparation.
At Vimy, the Canadian Corps and the British XVII Corps on their immediate southern flank had captured more ground, more prisoners and more guns than any previous British Expeditionary Force offensive.
Vimy Ridge was a particularly important tactical feature. Its capture by the Canadians was essential to the advances by the British Third Army to the south and of exceptional importance to checking the German attacks in the area in 1918.
The Canadians had demonstrated they were one of the outstanding formations on the Western Front and masters of offensive warfare.
Four Victoria Crosses (VC) were awarded for bravery. Of these, three were earned on the opening day of the battle:
- Private William Milne of the 16th Battalion.
- Lance-Sergeant Ellis Sifton of the 18th Battalion.
- Private John Pattison of the 50th Battalion (April 10).
- Captain Thain MacDowell of the 38th Battalion. MacDowell had also earned the Distinguished Service Order on the Somme. Of the four Vimy VCs, only Captain MacDowell survived the War.
The Canadian success at Vimy demonstrated that no position was invulnerable to a meticulously planned and conducted assault. This success had a profound effect on Allied planning.
Though the victory at Vimy came swiftly, it did not come without cost. There were 3,598 dead out of 10,602 Canadian casualties.
After Vimy, the Canadian Corps went from one success to another, to be crowned by their achievements in the 1918 "advance to victory". This record won for Canada a separate signature on the Versailles Peace Treaty ending the War.