From one o'clock until five thirty, thousands of men - quiet. The locking ring on our bayonets were a little loose. When the order to "Fix bayonets" went along the line, you'd think there were a thousand bees coming. You trembled, waiting. -- F. MacGregor, 25th Battalion CEF
Today has been named Vimy Ridge Day by the Canadian Government, after the battle that happened 93 years ago. It is also marking the end of an era, as the last surviving Canadian soldier from the Canadian Expeditionary Force, John Babcock, died a short while ago.
I can't imagine, as hard as I try, what those men experienced that day. I can't imagine the tension pressed into that dirt trench with hundreds of others, listening to those thousand bees, waiting. And then the ear splitting barrage opening up seconds later.
It was just like a continuous sheet of lightening, like a prairie fire behind us, and it was utterly dark still, pitch black. You could hear this tremendous swish of the shells overhead and then just a continuous crash along the line. -- E.S. Russenholt, 44th Battalion CEF
We were dancing a macabre dance as our nerves just vibrated to the thousands of shells and the millions of machine gun bullets that were whizzing over. And I felt that if I had put my finger up I should have touched a ceiling of sound because sound had acquired a new quality, the quality of solidity. -- Gus Sivertz, 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles, CEF.
I can't imagine throwing yourself into that fray, out of the tenuous safety of the trench, into the maelstrom of steel, mud and fire. Watching friends and comrades killed and wounded.
I could see this one going, that one going, and I'll never forget, there was a chap, his both legs shot off, and there he was on his stumps, and he was still using his gun to go forward. Oh, gee! It was terrible. -- G. Dorman, 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles, CEF
That's when we lost all the men. We lost over a hundred going from our trench to the first line of the German trench - the machine guns! -- Vic Armstrong, 10th Battalion CEF
My brother, whom I lost at Vimy, was just a very few feet from me when I lost him actually. He was wounded first and I dropped into the shellhole to give him first aid, and after giving him first aid I left him. Of course I couldn't stay and apparently he raised up in the shellhole to watch me, see where I went, and I heard the shot fired, and heard it land and turned around to see him fall. I got back to him a second time and he was gone, and of course I couldn't stay and I went forward with my troops. But there was always doubt in my mind that in the heat of battle I may have been mistaken, that maybe he hadn't been killed and that probably at some future time he might show up. I always had that on my mind for a long long time. -- A. Farmer, Machine Gun Corps, CEF
And the feelings of finally making their objective, of taking Vimy Ridge. But at such cost.
It was hard to realize that Vimy Ridge had been captured and on schedule. There were no cheers and no gleeful shouts. All ranks look over the great expanse of new country silently. -- H.R.H. Clyne, 29th Battalion CEF
I cannot imagine, but I can be grateful, and remember. Remember their work, their sacrifices, and their loss. And especially grateful for one that made it through that fray.
Just a few lines on this my birthday to let you know I came through the big scrap OK. I haven't time to write much but just want to say how glad I am. Louis came through alright too. Dan Holmes was wounded and I think Stewart McNicol was killed. You will know long before you get this anyway. I truly hope that I will celebrate my next birthday at home with you all. -- Alvin Kines, 16th Battalion CEF, and my Grandfather.