Vimy Ridge achieved fame in 1917. World War One witnessed a number of battles on the Western Front that have gone down in history. The Somme, Ypres and Vimy Ridge are among these.

Five major battles were fought around the town of Arras during World War One. This was because the town had an important railroad junction in it and if the Germans controlled it, the rail line could be used to help supply her troops. If the Allies controlled the rail junction, they could supply their own men.

Vimy Ridge is about 10 miles north of Arras and it was considered an important strategic area. Both the French and Germans wished to control it as it gave an army height in that area. The photo below shows the height advantage Vimy Ridge. The Germans captured Vimy Ridge in October 1914.

Vimy Ridge

However, Vimy Ridge won fame for the battle fought there in April 1917. The commander of the British Forces in France, Sir Douglas Haig, ordered an attack on Vimy Ridge. His major target was Ypres (Ieper) but he could not attack Ypres without first re-capturing Vimy Ridge. 

The attack on Vimy Ridge started on April 9th 1917. The Germans were cleared from their trenches but between April and May a series of violent attacks took place. It was at this battle that Canadian troops won much praise for their bravery and success in keeping Vimy Ridge for the Allies.

In places, the Canadian and German soldiers were less than 25 metres from one another on the front line trenches. The Canadians dug a series of underground tunnels to allow their soldiers to move to the battle zone more easily. A huge number of artillery shells were fired into the area around Vimy Ridge. Many did not explode and remain dangerous to this day.

The battlefield is still pockmarked with shell craters

The red sign is very clear in its instruction : “Danger. No entry. Unexploded explosives.” Vimy Ridge is surrounded by such signs and hundreds of similar craters – over 80 years after the battle – such was the intensity of the battle.

A vast memorial now stands at Vimy Ridge to commemorate the 10,000 Canadian men who died in this battle – nearly 10% of their forces in the area. 

The original memorial put up for the Canadians who lost their lives at the 1917 battle at Vimy Ridge was a lot less grand than the one there today. It was always going to be temporary until it was replaced. This memorial is now in Quebec, Canada.

The original Vimy Ridge memorial now in Quebec