The Battle of Vimy Ridge

From the Perspective of A German Soldier

German POWs help bring wounded Canadian soldiers back fromthe battlefield. (Source: http://ww1.canada.com/home-front/the-words-of-war)

Dear Diary,                                                                                                           April 21, 1917

I have been captured  by the mighty Canadians, but I am still thankful to still be alive , with the total of around 20 000 casualties ("A Part of Our Heritage). We failed to defend Vimy Ridge 20 days ago, on April 9th to 12th ("Vimy Ridge."), which forced us to help the wounded Canadian soldiers.  The conditions are surprisingly not that bad here in prison, and while I was looking out to the spectacular  scenery out here, I was finally able to really reflect and piece together what happened in the battle of Vimy Ridge. Oh, it just happened so quickly on the bitter cold morning of Easter Monday along with a storm of sleep and snow (Henderson) my mind was not able to digest it all. By the afternoon of the first day of April 9th, the two front lines have already been taken over by the Canadian Corps. I thought we could gain it back later on, but 3 days later on the 12th, the whole ridge was under Allied Control ("A Part of Our Heritage")! We were forced to accept it as a permanent loss. I've realized that the battle of Vimy Ridge was definitely a significant battle because of the extensive planning and preparation, the innovative battle tactics invented , and the new Canadian reputation. I don't remember much from the battle, but those are the three topics that really stood out in my mind.

The Extensive Planning and Preparation

This is a revolutionary step into the future of the military, since now other countries would follow as example. I saw some planes fly over too, suspicious as they didn't have any effect. Now thinking back, it is possible that the Canadians were able to get their hands on aerial-photographs of our set up, which helped them guide their way. (Cook) Their attack was so smooth it seemed as if they knew the positions of our troops, artillery, and machine guns. Heck, I wouldn't be surprised if they made realistic models and ran them through over and over again for months! (Henderson). I tried to retreat along with all the others from Douai Plains (Henderson), but unfortunately, it was too late for me. The unfortunate turnout became evident when the highest and most important feature of the ridge, Hill 145, was captured (Cook). For us Germans, the battle of Vimy Ridge was truly the week of suffering, and it almost makes me sick that there were barely anyone who remained intact. ("WWI: The Battle of Vimy Ridge - Canada at War.") At the end of the day, I really salute the careful planning by British General Julian Byng and Canadian Commander First General Arthur Currie (Henderson), I can see that they really didn't want to leave anything for chance. This makes me wonder why we didn't think of that. After it has been done, it just seems like the obvious thing to do. From the battle, troops now from all over the nation would experience training and extensive practice as well instead of just plainly attacking, which would lower the amount of wasteful casualties.

Map illustrating the Canadian's attack formations of Vimy Ridge. (Source: picture personally taken of source shown below)

Source: M.Santor, Donald. "Vimy Ridge: April 1917." Canadian scrapbook: Canadians at war 1914-1918. Scarborough: Pretice-Hall of Canada, 1978 16, Print.

The Innovative Battle Tactics

I remember being in utter shock, as the Canadians really caught us off guard. Who knew that they would be right behind the barrage, and attack during a sleet storm and a Christian holy day at 5:30 in the morning? (Henderson) That's how they got their name of the Storm Troopers, they came in just like a storm! The Storm Troopers of 15 000 stormed the ridge and captured most of our German positions by the afternoon of that very first day ("Vimy Ridge"), me included. They couldn't bring their own machine guns, so they took over our machine guns to shoot at our own people! ("WWI: The Battle of Vimy Ridge - Canada at War.") Damn you Canadians and your genius tactics! It was also surprising that all the men seemed skilled, how could that be? The machine gunners, rifle-men, and grenade throwers seemed specialized, as if they were given specialized roles. If this is so, it must have provided greater flexibility and firepower in battle (Cook). Along with the surprise factor and specialized roles, the main reason for success was the destructive artillery barrage. The Canadian Corps formed a moving wall of explosives that force us Germans to stay in our deep dugouts and machine guns (Cook). I've never seen nor heard of anything like it, but if I would refer to it as a creeping barrage. ("WWI: The Battle of Vimy Ridge - Canada at War.") Despite our "impenetrable German lines" consisting of three layers of trenches (A Part of Our Heritage) and a series of deep dugouts ("WWI: The Battle of Vimy Ridge - Canada at War."), it is understandable why the Storm Troopers were able to overtake us. This is significant for the rest of the world because it is the first time these tactics have been used. I feel pressured as a German to think of military innovations too, for I do not want Germany to fall behind in this aspect.

Victorious Canadians celebrate after overtaking Vimy Ridge. (Source: http://www.reddit.com/r/HistoryPorn/comments/1dkcvr/)

The Canadian Reputation

They have definitely proved their reputation of being an impregnable stronghold (Henderson). I heard that this is the first time that all four divisions of the Canadian Corps are attacking together (Cook), and it demonstrates what a powerful nation is capable of achieving if they all work together. Achieving something that neither the French nor British was able to do with 4 tries. Additionally, I was absolutely astonished when I found out that the Canadian Corps actually captured more ground, prisoners, and guns than the previous 2-and-a-half years worth of war of the British offensive. ("Vimy Ridge") My, my, the Canadian Corps has truly made a name for themselves. It is difficult to observe from my prison cell, but I can sense that this victory could possibly trigger the birth of a nation. ("Vimy Ridge") Once Canada is its own country and is no longer a colony of Britian, this could make Britian more vulnerable, and more subject to attack! This battle could also gain Canada more more allies once they are independent based on their phenomenal execution of the battle of Vimy Ridge.  

The whole time during my stay in prison, I couldn't stop thinking about the impressive preparation, innovative battle tactics, and the formation of the Canadian image showing the true significance of the battle of Vimy Ridge in 1917. As the battle summed up, I tried to retreat along with all the others from the Douai Plains (Henderson), but unfortunately, it was too late for me. The turnout became evident when the highest and most important feature of the ridge, Hill 145, was captured (Cook). For us Germans, the battle of Vimy Ridge was truly the week of suffering, and it almost makes me sick that there were barely anyone who remained intact. ("WWI: The Battle of Vimy Ridge - Canada at War.") This battle was definitely significant, so significant that I think this just could be a turning point of WWI, a great victory for opposite side of the Allied Force ("A Part of Our Heritage"). I really hope this isn't true though, since it would mean that we would lose the war. Who knows what outrageous laws the Allied Force would force upon us then? The thought truly frightens me.

Sincerely,

myself, Fritzi Schmidt

See more of the battle...

Work Cited List

1. Cook, Tim. "The Battle of Vimy Ridge, 9-12 April 1917." WarMuseum.ca. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Feb. 2015. <http://www.warmuseum.ca/cwm/exhibitions/vimy/index_e.shtml>.

2. "The Battle of Vimy Ridge." Veterans Affairs Canada. N.p., 23 Nov. 2014. Web. 08 Feb. 2015. <http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/history/first-world-war/fact_sheets/vimy>.

3. Henderson, Ian, Peter Lawley, Norm Probert, and Don Quinlan. World Affairs: Defining Canada's Role. Toronto: Oxford UP Canada, 1998. Print.

4. "WWI: The Battle of Vimy Ridge - Canada at War." Canada at War RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Feb. 2015. <http://www.canadaatwar.ca/page9.html>.

5. M. Santor, Donald. "Vimy Ridge: April 1917." Canadian scrapbook: Canadians at war 1914-1918. Scarborough: Pretice-Hall of Canada, 1978 16, Print.

6. "Vimy Ridge." The Canadian Encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Feb. 2015. <http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/vimy-ridge/>.

7."A Part of Our Heritage" Vimy Ridge. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Feb. 2015. <https://www.historicacanada.ca/content/heritage-minutes/vimy-ridge>.

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