PREPARING FOR BATTLE.
Much was accomplished by all the Canadian battalions during those early months of their occupation of the Souchez trenches. Throughout the winter they were busily engaged in harassing the Germans on Vimy Ridge. Trench raids became more frequent and almost as popular as pay days. The new Canadians took to them as well as the veterans had done in the Salient. From small enterprises involving perhaps a dozen men, they developed into well-organized operations in which a hundred or even a whole company took active part. Their sporting element appealed to every son of the West and keen rivalry sprang up between the various units. The Germans opposed to them were in a continual "blue funk" and sleepless nights must have been the order among the Hun garrison.
Yet the sum total of all the work done by the Canadians from October to April is bound up in one most glorious chapter of history - the story of Vimy Ridge.
DESCRIPTION OF THE RIDGE-A BULWARK.
Vimy - most famous of the series of commanding ridges which the Germans held-was an inland "Heligoland." A narrow, irregular stretch of elevation extending some 8,000 yards over the plains of a once-flourishing countryside, it had been converted into an apparently invincible fortress. Indeed, British and French armies had already combined in pitting their forces against it on repeated occasions; but in vain. Its slopes were honeycombed with a maze of trenches of superb construction, made to withstand the most intense assaults of the opposing artillery. It contained dugouts wonderful in creation, fashioned by past masters in the art of tunnelling - some were capable of sheltering half a battalion of infantry. Its fortified caves of great depth and breadth gave room and comfort to strong garrisons who credited themselves with complete immunity from hostile shells. Its machine gun fortresses of concrete were models of strength.
To capture this masterpiece of military ingenuity seemed an almost superhuman task. It was the biggest thing that British troops had been called upon to carry out up to this time. How Canadians came to be selected to do the job is now a matter of history.
PRODUCTIVE RECONNAISSANCE-SPLENDID ARTILLERY.
Preparations for the battle were extensive, yet limited space forbids any attempt to describe the ramifications of the training of the men between February and April. Suffice it is to say that every inch of the ground was known to the Canadian staffs, and the infantry were able to visualize the task ahead of them from the many plans and diagrams, photographs, and taped courses over which companies and platoons practised their parts in the attack.
The preliminary work of the Canadian artillery was perfect. Every gun in the area of the Canadian Corps fired on the German defences in concert. Formidable entanglements of coiled barbed wire were pulverised and a clean passage made for the assaulting troops. Parapets crumbled under the British shells. Dugouts which had been built for permanencies rose in the air in fragments when the "heavies " from the Canadian side landed upon them. The strength of the Hun garrisons dwindled under the intense fire. The pride of Prince Rupprecht's Bavarian army was shattered. Such was the achievement of the artillery before Vimy Ridge.