This blog continues our series commemorating the centenary of the Battle of Arras.
The actual fight for the high ground of Vimy began in the half light of the morning of Monday 9 April, 1917. The morning began bitterly cold and overcast, something which may have helped the assaulting waves to make their positions without being noticed. Once there, they waited until precisely 05:30 when the bombardment began and the mines dug and laid by the engineers were blown.
Rising from their jumping-off points, the infantry pursued the barrage forwards towards the German lines. Protracted mining activity by both sides in the months before the operation had torn apart the ground into a chain of mine craters, which combined with the maze of shattered trenches and scattered wire entanglements, made early progress difficult for the Canadians. The inclement weather of the preceding days had also reduced the surface to a slippery quagmire, something made worse by deteriorating conditions on the ground. By 06:00, a north-westerly wind began blowing up snow and sleet which continued on and off for the rest of the day.
In spite of the conditions, at 07:10 the 3rd Canadian Division reported to Corps HQ that the whole of their Black Line – or primary – objective had been secured, and the same was confirmed by the 4th and 5th Brigades of 2nd Division at 07:20, and by 3rd Brigade of the 1st Division at 08:25. Events continued to develop rapidly – too rapidly for Corps HQ to keep up – and by 09:25, the 1st Division was reporting that it had secured all of its Red Line – or secondary – objectives and the 2nd Division reported the same soon after. The push on to their final objectives – the Blue and Brown lines – was met with remarkably little opposition, with the advance going according to programme; the battalions in the vanguard of both divisions marched on to the eastern slopes of the ridge and were the first Allied soldiers to look down on the Douai plain since the German reoccupation in 1915. By early afternoon, the 1st, 2nd and 3rd divisions were able to communicate the complete success of their operations. Continue reading »