Today marks the 94th anniversary of the conclusion of the Battle of Vimy Ridge – one of the epic battles of the first World War. After three days of brutal fighting, Canadians captured and secured the last two strong points, Hill 145 and “the Pimple”, in their objectives. In doing so they inflicted 20,000 casualties on the German Sixth Army, deprived their enemy of what was thought to be an impregnable barrier, and severely damaged the morale of the opposition armies.

The Canadian Military History blog has an excellent piece online, complete with situational maps, photographs, and statistics. A sample:

Vimy Ridge was the biggest single Allied advance on the Western front up to that point in World War I. The Ridge, a 7 km long whalebacked crest of land, rose like a barrier 65 metres above the the Douai Plain in northeastern France. It was key to the German defence system. It gave the enemy an unobstructed view of miles of battlefield below. Previous attacks by the French and British had failed, at the cost of over 100,000 casualties and 20,000 lives. The route up the ridge was an open graveyard.

The Germans had dug themselves deeply into the limestone and chalk of Vimy Ridge. They had crafted a network of trenches and tunnels, with scores of machine gun emplacements, deep dugouts for cover, and concrete bunkers for their big guns. It was a fortress, and it appeared to be virtually unassailable. The Canadian Corps, commanded by Lieutenant-General Sir Julian Byng and Major-General Arthur Currie, were given the order to capture it. Veteran French General Robert-Georges Nivelle shook his head at the news, predicting ruefully that the attempt of the Canadian Corps would also end in disaster.

The rest, of course, is history.

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