102 years ago today, April 9, 1917 the men of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, stormed the hills of Vimy Ridge for the first Allied Victory of the First World War.
The Canadian Corps captured more ground, more prisoners and more guns than any previous Allied offensive. It was a major victory for the Allies. With the overall success of the Battle of Arras, a turning point in the Great War had been reached.
The Canadians had demonstrated they were one of the outstanding formations on the Western Front and masters of offensive warfare.
The victory at Vimy, however, came at a heavy cost. Canadians counted 3,598 dead and 7,104 wounded in the four day battle. Many of the dead were simply swallowed up in the mud that was the battlefield, never to be seen again.
Here is the exciting capture of the gun captured at Vimy Ridge and now resting in Hopewell Cape.
Daring Capture as reported in the War Diary of 27th Battalion
April 8th, 1917 at 9:30 pm the 27th City of Winnipeg Battalion assembled and moved into the Assembly Trenches just east of Aux Reitz with all companies in position by 2:55am.
April 9th, at exactly 5:30 am, the attack started, with all guns firing right on time.
April 9th, 9:30 am, the 27th Bn. left the Assembly Trenches and formed up.
Germans sent a counter gas attack on the troops but caused no casualties.
The 27th Battalion then advanced toward the Red objective passing between Thelus Wood and the Town of Thelus.
When crossing the Blue line another gas attack was launched by the Germans, but no casualties, as soldiers put on box respirators.
When the 27th reached the “jumping off” point at 11:30 am, amid heavy shelling by German artillery, they paused in shell holes, waiting for the Canadian barrage to start.
At 12:43 pm the barrage started, and the battalion formed up ready to advance. As the barrage crept forward, the men marched along with it. Great cool was displayed by Bandsman, Paddy Smith, who played the Regimental March on his piccolo throughout the advance. Unfortunately, Paddy was killed at the objective by a shell.
There was a momentary pause while a machine gun opened up on the left, but a couple of well directed rifle grenades soon took care of that. On the right, the German gunners of one company of heavy guns opened fire at point blank range with muzzle bursts.
The battalion charged the last 50 yards with a cheer and leaped into the gun pits, where the gunners put up a stout fight. Our line, lead by Captain Lane, seized the guns, put out of action those of the crew who resisted and took the remainder prisoners, and prevented the guns from being dismantled.
The 10cm k14 s/n 590 was captured at B.1.a.6.7 1/2 ref THELUS N.E. 1/10000
The ground fell away sharply from one edge of the wood to the village of Farbus. From there looking eastward the country was flat and we had complete command. At 1:50 pm the signal of three bright white lights was sent up, showing that we were in touch with both flanks and in the possession of the whole of our portion of the Brown objective. By 4:00 pm the battalion had captured the village of Farbus.
Returning the Favour
According to the 27th Battalion War Diary, two days later, on the 11th of April, the captured guns were turned on the enemy under direction of officers from the Canadian 6th Artillery Brigade, and sent back several thousand rounds captured with them.
Damage Caused by New Brunswick Siege Battery
Further research has shown that the damage on the gun, before it was captured, was probably caused by the New Brunswick 6th or 8th Siege Battery, whose firing patterns during the battle matched perfectly with the location of the K14 on the battlefield.
We encourage you to visit the museum this summer and view the County of Heroes exhibit to learn more.