Today is John Erickson’s 50th birthday (or so he claims) & because he is such a great guy I am putting aside my grief over Newtown to post again. John is a recent addition to the blogging community – he spent quite a while commenting on other’s blogs before he could be convinced to start writing a blog of his own. But once he started . . . he really got going.  John is a great guy, interested in history (especially war), cars & good arguments. He also loves re-enactments. We may have differing opinions on gun control, but I’m lucky enough to call him my friend.  Happy Birthday John!

As a tribute to John, I thought I would give him something to think about by sharing some Canadian history of the Great War with him, specifically Vimy Ridge.

The_Battle_of_Vimy_RidgeNo Allied operation on the Western Front was more thoroughly planned than this deliberate frontal attack on what seemed to be virtually invincible positions. Vimy Ridge was so well fortified that all previous attempts to capture it had failed. However, Canadian commanders had learned bitter lessons from the cost of past frontal assaults made by vulnerable infantry. This time their preparations were elaborate. As the Canadian Commander of the 1st Division, Major-General Arthur Currie, said,”Take time to train them.” This is exactly what the Canadian Corps did, down to the smallest unit and the individual soldier.

Vimy Ridge marked the only significant success of the Allied spring offensive of 1917. But though they had won a great tactical victory, the Canadians were unable to exploit their success quickly with a breakthrough, mainly because their artillery had bogged down and was unable to move up with them through the muddy, shell-torn ground. Instead, some Canadian artillerymen took over captured German guns which they had earlier been trained to fire.

Map of Vimy RidgeThe Canadian achievement in capturing Vimy Ridge owed its success to sound and meticulous planning and thorough preparation, all of which was aimed at minimizing casualties. But it was the splendid fighting qualities and devotion to duty of Canadian officers and soldiers on the battlefield that were decisive. Most of them citizen-soldiers, they performed like professionals.

Canadians attacked German machine-guns, the greatest obstacles to their advance, with great courage. They saved many comrades’ lives as a result. Four won the Victoria Cross for their bravery in such dangerous exploits. Of these, three were earned on the opening day of the battle.

The Canadian success at Vimy marked a profound turning-point for the Allies. A year-and-a-half later, the Great War was over. The Canadian record, crowned by the achievements at Vimy, won for Canada a separate signature on the Versailles Peace Treaty ending the war. Back home, the victory at Vimy, won by troops from every part of the country, helped unite many Canadians in pride at the courage of their citizen-soldiers, and established a feeling of real nationhood.

Sources: For King & Empire, Veterans Affairs Canada, Library and Archives Canada

If you would like to know more about Vimy Ridge, I can highly recommend “Vimy Ridge” written by Pierre Berton.

These other bloggers are participating in wishing John a Happy Birthday & I encourage you to visit their blogs to check out their posts for John:

Happy Birthday John!  And many more!
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