Description of the Battle of Vimy Ridge
By Lieutenant A. Lawson
The day before the attack we moved into a wood and the day was an exception to those we had been having, it being fine with the Sun out although very muddy underfoot. Our band played to the boys throughout the day. That night we took up our march to our Assembly position for the dawn, the band playing us part way, the lads singing and whistling. Shortly the band left us, the singing and whistling and the joking died down leaving every man to his own thoughts under the clear sky with the stars shining brightly. Our starting point was reached very early in the morn so we had a few hours sleep. The troops who were to take the first objective started off at 5.30 A.M. For days previous to this our artillery had been hammering away in fine style both day and night but now it seemed to redouble in vigor. The whole place for miles was ablase with the flashes of our guns and the ground the ground around Fritz’ trenches was simply as though in a churn. About 6 0’clock prisoners started to stream through our frontage, this put our lads in fine spirits for the time we were to start. When our time came every man was in his position and leaped the parapet on the dot. We soon had our men in the formation required. We had to go approximately 5,000 yards to obtain our objective and by the time we leaped our trenches Fritz had put up his barrage which started not more than 50 yards from our starting point. It consisted of heavy coal boxes, shrapnel, whiz-bangs, gas shells and every other thing he had from 18 pounders up to up to his heavy 12” shells. It was not a pleasant curtain to go through especially for a depth of 2,000 yards. He must have thought that no troops could get through for after going about this distance we found stretches practically free from his shells. No praise can be too great for the way our boys went through that Hell. The formation was kept just as though we were in practice. Any casualties were taken care of by those following in the rear, as it was our duty to get through at all costs. The mud mad it hard going and we were sweating to beat the band. After going about 2,000 yards we found ourselves clear of shells and as troops that had gone on before had cleaned up the Huns that distance we took a few minutes needed rest under the protection of our own barrage that was tearing up the wire and trenches of Fritz which we still had to take and cross before we came to our real fighting ground which was a woods on the crest of the Ridge and a town on the other side of the slope. Starting out again we formed into attacking formation and went forward slowly keeping as close as possible to our creeping barrage, getting through the wire which was in two belts about 10 yds thickness to each, we cleared Fritz trench finding mostly all in their Dug outs. Continuing we were now moving onto our real objective and Fritz had again moved forward his barrage so we were in it again. We could now see the cannon along the front edge of the wood being fired and recoil, it sure was a funny sight. Oh no, I don’t mean comical by any means. Those Germans were game as they continued to work them until we were about 60 feet away. I’m glad to say they were an exception for most guns had been abandoned and the crews fled. On the signal to charge, no voice could be heard two feet away every one leaped forward with his bayonet leveled. The Huns who resisted were either killed or wounded, a number went helter skelter over the fallen trees and through the shell holes down the slope with our chaps in close touch ( a fine word that ) the woods and village were soon cleared. We had taken approximately 125 prisoners, that was our Company alone, the other companies also doing similar good work. That fifteen minutes was the most exciting I have ever had. I felt just like a school boy. It must get into everyone’s blood in a charge, besides it was the relaxing of our feelings after having had to endure the strain all the way up.
For a while there was a lull during which we consolidated our position and got it touch with those on our flank. Our boys were great on trophy hunting also most everyone had something, for the Germans had considered Vimy Ridge absolutely impregnable. The Officer prisoners which included a Colonel simply could not understand the situation at all. I secured an automatic revolver which is a dandy, and artillery officer’s fancy brass Lion headed sword, a saw bayonet with fancy tassels, this is an ugly weapon, a folding aluminum knife, fork and spoon set with cup, which I find very useful, a pocket camera, a real beaut. This I have not use nor can I use it owing to regulations so it will be sealed up till I get out, and a few more little articles.
Our troubles were not over yet by any means for in a few hours time we were heavily shelled by Fritz who kept it up the remainder of that day, all night, all next day and had not quit when we were relieved the following noon. Our men lay all this while in the open in the mud without any shelter whatever. It was very cold as the first afternoon it started to rain keeping it up intermittently until we came out, we also had two good snow storms thrown in. Well as you may imagine we were pretty well all in on being relieved. It was during the first night that I was knocked out for 15 minutes by a shell crashing through the trees and bringing down branches a heavy piece of something striking my back across the shoulders sending me sprawling. I really thought my time was up but it only left a bruise. I had a fine bunch of lads and the section commanders were on the job all the time and set a fine example to their men.
As soon as I get back there was a parcel containing a fine pair of socks made by a nice young lady of Prescott. I was delighted as my feet were soaking and although we were out of the front line still it was the next day before we were able to get any of our personal effects.