The Battle of Vimy Ridge (April 9–12, 1917) was part of the Battle of Arras, a British offensive against the Germans on the Western Front of World War I. Fought in large part by the Canadian Corps, the Battle of Vimy Ridge is often considered a defining moment in Canada’s history.
In April 1917, the British launched an attack at Arras, in northern France, to divert German reserves from a planned French offensive.
As part of this larger objective, the 4 divisions of the Canadian Corps and 1 British division were tasked with capturing Vimy Ridge from 3 divisions of Germans, who had held the ridge since 1914. The French had previously tried to take the ridge but failed with high casualties, as it was riddled with fortifications, trenches, and machine gun nests.
Battle of Vimy Ridge
Leading up to the battle, the Canadians meticulously planned and rehearsed their attack against Vimy Ridge. The infantry was carefully trained, and engineers dug tunnels to safely get troops closer to the front. The artillery would provide a “creeping barrage” to protect the infantry as they moved closer to the German lines.
The assault began at 5:30 AM on April 9, 1917. The attack largely went as planned, and the majority of the ridge had been taken by late afternoon the same day. The northern tip of the ridge took longer to capture, but by April 12 the Canadians had achieved their objectives and captured 4,000 Germans.
Allied losses from the battle were 3,598 dead and another 7,000 wounded. The Germans sustained an estimated 20,000 casualties.
Aftermath & Significance
Despite the Canadian victory at Vimy Ridge, the larger campaign ended in failure in May.
However, the Battle of Vimy Ridge emerged as an important symbolic moment in Canadian history, helping to create a sense of national identity and pride. Brigadier-General Alexander Ross said about the battle that “In those few minutes I witnessed the birth of a nation.”
Learn more about the Battle of Vimy Ridge through historical newspapers from our archives. Explore newspaper articles, headlines, images, and other primary sources below.