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Summary:  

The first World War is known for its destruction, massive slaughters, and countless offensive failures.  Few battles were clear successes; most became large scale chaos and butchery.  The first real Allied  success was the battle of Vimy Ridge, fought by Canadian troops with British support.  Between the years of 1914 and 1915, the French lost 150,000 men trying to take the ridge.  In 1916 the British took over the fight and continued the ineffective tactics of repeated shelling, mining, raiding, and skirmishing by night.  In 1917,  the Canadian Corp, under the First British Army, began to formulate plans for taking the ridge from Germany.  The, then uncommon, element of surprise was effectively used in conjunction with careful planning by the Canadians.   Four divisions of the Canadian Corps, with the 5th British Division in support, began their assault on Vimy Ridge on April 9th, 1917.  Usually artillery would pound enemy lines for days or even weeks before troops would be sent "over the top" or out of the trenches to attack the enemy soldiers.  Canadian artillery bombarded the German lines for only three minutes when the Canadian infantry was sent into battle.  Canadian gunners used wind information, provided by weather planes and balloons, when targeting ( a very rare practice at the time).  They wanted to be sure not to accidentally drop shells on their own people so they carefully calibrated the guns to shoot just ahead of where the advancing troops were to be.  This exceptional cover fire allowed the Canadian troops to reach the German trenches, though many casualties were sustained.  A chaotic battle with many bewildered Germans followed.  The struggle was bloody, but not nearly as death ridden as other World War One battles.  By using innovative strategies, Canadians took the ridge on April 14.  The 6 mile area, containing numerous trenches and tunnels,  was very important for tactical reasons; one could see far into the German area from the top of the ridge.  Of the 100,000 Canadians who took part in the battle, 3,598 were killed and 7,004 wounded.  French General Nivelle's big offensive, of which Vimy Ridge was supporting, failed as a whole and resulted in major loss of life.  The Battle of Vimy Ridge, on the other hand, was a success while  showing that careful and intelligent military planning could be used to win battles with minimum casualties.  But the lessons were not learned and the war remained the same.  Leaders continued to send thousands of young men to their deaths in useless and bloody battles, such as the Battle of  Passchendaele.

Read my paper about Vimy Ridge.

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