April 9 - 12, 1917
On the night of April 8, 1917 (Easter Sunday) the strength of the Canadian Corps, including attached British troops, was 170,000 men. At 5:28 a.m. on Easter Monday, April 9, machine guns opened up against the enemy lines, mines were exploded under enemy positions and an enormous barrage began, fired by the 850 guns assembled for the purpose and supplemented by another 280 guns of I British Corps on the left of the Canadians. A keen northwest wind drove snow and sleet into the faces of the attackers. Behind the rolling barrage, the infantry advanced.
Just before the attack went in, gas shells were fired into the German rear areas, killing hundreds of horses and disrupting the Germans' ability to bring up ammunition and move their artillery. The leading companies were in the first line of enemy trenches before defenders could emerge from their deep dug-outs. Many prisoners were taken, 3,500 in the first rush. Moving forward according to their timetable, Canadian troops ran into intense machine gun fire from the second line of German defences, sustaining heavy losses. In spite of this, the Canadians took one objective after another until by midday the First, Second and Third Divisions were astride the Ridge on schedule. The "Pimple" and Hill 145, however, remained in German hands.
The Fourth Division had as its objective the heavily fortified Hill 145, the highest and most important point on the Ridge. The German defences here were particularly strong and the Canadians were held up in their advance, coming under heavy fire from the "Pimple." Further attacks had to be put in without artillery support, and it was not until the morning of April 10 that Hill 145 was taken. That afternoon a final assault cleared out the remaining pockets of resistance and the Ridge was in Canadian hands, the German defenders pulling back to new defensive positions on the Douai plain beyond Lens.
At 5 a.m. on April 12 the Fourth Division launched an attack on the "Pimple," which had been reinforced with fresh troops on the previous day. As on April 9 a heavy artillery bombardment supported them, but this time it was not so easy to move just behind the rolling barrage due to the difficult terrain. The weather was again cold, with driving snow and sleet, and heavy enemy fire took its toll on the attackers. But by mid-afternoon, the storm had abated and the Canadians were in control of the "Pimple."
Lest we forget
Lest we forget