Canadian machine gunners dig themselves into shell holes on Vimy Ridge, France, April 1917 (courtesy Library and Archives Canada/PA-1017).
On Easter Monday, April 9, 1917, at 5:30 am, the deafening roar of 800 guns rebounded over Vimy Ridge in northeastern France. The Ridge had fallen to the Germans in October 1914, and all efforts by the Allies to retake it had been in vain.
Private Lewis Duncan, in a letter to his aunt, stated, The Ridge in front was wreathed in flames as the shells burst."
It was a barrage that was unprecidented in the history of war. Over one million rounds of ammunition was fried--most of them with deadly accuracy. A new type of shell, equipped with fuses that ignited on contact ripped the barbed wire apart and allowed access that until that point had been denied.
My mother's cousins fought at Vimy Ridge. Their names were Tollhurst and they were in the same platoon. One brother was wounded and was carried out by the other. Once he had gotten medical attention for his wounded brother, he returned to the Front, where he died for his country.
On this, the anniversary, of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, I pay tribute to the infantrymen who came from every corner of Canada to take the strongest fortress on the Western Front. These young men fought as "Canadians," not as part of the British Empire. Many gave the ultimate sacrifice, while others came home maimed and broken, both mentally and physically. Still others suffered their entire lives from the effects of mustard gas.
If you would like to learn more about the Battle of Vimy Ridge, click on the link. This is an important part of Canadian history.