The Battle of Vimy Ridge

The birth of a new nation


The battle of Vimy Ridge was a World War I battle that took place from April, 1917 near the town of Vimy, France. It was fought between the Canadian Corps and units of the German Imperial Army.

Supported by intense artillery fire, the Canadians launched their main attack on Vimy Ridge at 05:30 hours on April 9. At the end of three days of ferocious fighting against stubborn German resistance, the Canadian Corps troops managed to take the trenches and fortification.

What is Vimy ridge?

The battle of Vimy Ridge is Canada's most celebrated military victory, during World War One, which started on April 9th and ended April 12th 1917. Sometimes a mythologized symbol of the birth of Canadian awareness and pride.

The Plan

Discussions of the attack started in November 1916. After all these discussions, Canadians started making their way towards Vimy Ridge. On March 1917, the Canadian crops commander Julian Byng, was told orders outlining the objective. After this, the plan was to be followed and prep for the battle was to take place.


  • All soldiers were specifically trained and prepared for the battle, other than charging a field of machine gun fire.
  • Troops built underground city of it's kind. Models of ridge and attacking points were built to simulate the attack.
  • Allies shelled the Germans for a week straight and used planes to survey the areas to help in building their models. Germans called it "week of suffering".
  • Before Vimy, attacks could be predicted. Waves of soldiers going over the top would be mowed down after a barrage of shellfire.
  • Small units and individual soldiers were given much more information about the battle, and were expected to exercise initiative in keeping the advance moving, even if officers were wounded.


Army engineers dug extensive tunnels with a two-fold purpose under the battlefield to bring infantry safely and closer to the German lines. Tunnels were used to protect Canadians and used to place hugs underground mines beneath the German trenches. The deepest tunnel was dug to 100 feet.
Walk through one of the tunnels in Vimy Ridge

Creeping Barrage

There plan was called "The Creeping Barrage" The goal was to hurl shell ahead of the advancing forces and the enemy will be forced to stay hidden in their dugouts. Canadians were above the Germans before they even knew what hit them. During this attack, timing and training was key. One mistake and the Canadians' own shell could kill them.

"It was Canada from the Atlantic to the Pacific in the parade. I thought then , and I think today, that in those few minutes I witnessed the birth of a nation."- Brigadier-General Alexander Ross, Commander, 28th Battalion at Vimy Ridge, 1917


Machine Guns

Machine guns were a fixture on the front lines during the First World War.


When the fighting in the trenches was in close quarters, bayonets like this one were more effective than rifles.


These were airships used by the Germans for naval patrols and for strategic bombing mission.

Hand Grenades

Hand grenades were used to supply enemy machine guns and when storming a fortified position.


The majority of infantry were issued rifles


Artillery was one of the defining weapons of the First World War. Many casualties were inflicted by the heavy bombardments both sides inflicted on the other.


Even though the Canadians came out victorious, they had faced a huge cost to the war. The causalities during the war were enormous. 100,000 Canadian soldiers fought in the four Canadian Corps. There were 11,000 causalities and 3,500 of them were fatal.


40,000 Canadians popped out of their trenches and overwhelmed the German troops. Two days into fighting, the Germans retreated from the ridge and Canadians took many guns, prisoners and territory than any British force up until this war. Canadians got their independent identity and four victory crosses.

Fast Facts

  • There were 97, 184 Canadians at the battle.
  • The battle started at 5:00 am when the Canadians advanced towards the German positions. This day also happened to be Easter Monday.
  • Canadian Corps and British XVII Corps seizes more ground, prisoners, and guns than any other British Force Offensive.
  • The Vimy Ridge Memorial in France took 11 years to build and was unveiled on July 26, 1936.
  • Each year on April 9, Canada remembers that battle, and the sacrifices of those Canadians, in commemorative services held at the Canadian National Vimy Memorial.
  • Four Canadians earned the Victoria Cross, Canada’s highest medal for military valour, for actions during the battle: Private William Milne, Lance-Sergeant Ellis Sifton, Captain Thain MacDowell and Private John Pattison.

Private John Pattison