Unending Seige

Vimy Ridge

On Top of the Ridge

From the top of the ridge, in the morning, the Canadians watched the enemy withdraw across meadows that contrasted with the mud they had been floundering in for weeks on their side of the ridge. They had just won a very important victory. Their trophies: 4,000 prisoners, 54 guns, 104 mortars and 124 machine guns. Four Victoria Crosses were awarded for all this effort. The success of Vimy would prove that gunners, sappers, signalmen and infantry had managed, working very closely together, to solve the numerous tactical problems of the battlefield. Its planning of this action, co-ordination of the arms and many rehearsals conducted in the rear showed the mastery of which the Canadian Corps was now capable. Yet the joys of victory were dampened by its heavy cost: 10,602 casualties, or one man in eight, 3,598 of them dead. Not surprisingly, the most moving of all the Canadian commemorative monuments from the two world wars can be found at Vimy.

Everybody realized that they could not rest on their laurels. Between 16 April and 9 May, Nivelle and the French advanced only six kilometres and the casualties they recorded shattered the calm of the French armies, where certain elements mutinied. These localized spasms would be suppressed by Philippe Pétain, who replaced Nivelle and claimed to be waiting for the Americans who had entered the war that April. While the newcomers gathered their forces and, on the other front, Russia prepared to withdraw from the war, it was virtually left to the British, fairly spread out along the western front if we exclude the Somme, to mount attacks. Over that summer, Canadian brigades took Arleux-en-Gobelle and Fresnoy to the north and south of Arras, at a cost, in the case of Fresnoy, of 1,249 casualties.