Home > Reviews > Other > Campaign 151: Vimy Ridge 1917, Byng’s Canadians Triumph at Arras


Campaign 151: Vimy Ridge 1917, Byng’s Canadians Triumph at Arras

by Alexander Turner, illustrated by Peter Dennis

Published by Osprey Publishing Ltd, ISBN 1-84176-871-5, 96 pages.

Buy from amazon

Vimy Ridge was a morale-raising victory, but also gave the Allies a tactically important position. Although the ridge was not very high it did offer a commanding view over the Arras plain with its coalfields and industrial cities as well as a strong defensive position for whoever held it. By this stage of the Great War both sides were starting to run short of men. The Germans had begun work on the Hindenburg Line, with Vimy Ridge part of it, to reduce their trench mileage and the French were in such straits that they had to ask for British and Canadian troops to take over part of their lines.

The German positions on the ridge were strong, but their reserve troops were held too far back for immediate counterattacks. On the Allied side an attack was needed to relieve pressure on the French, but traditional methods had proved wasteful of men. The Canadians came up with new ideas, including a proper rolling barrage to protect the attacking troops by keeping enemy heads down. The famous mines under Vimy Ridge also came into play, though it isn’t generally appreciated that many of them were never blown and in fact some are still dangerous.

Massive stockpiles of ammunition were built up for the rolling barrage, and an almost unheard of density of gunfire descended on the German lines with the Canadian and British troops following very close behind. Earlier bombardments had been used to cut the German wire over a long period, so the Germans had become accustomed to the shellfire and didn’t react immediately. The lack of immediate German reinforcements allowed the initial breakins to be consolidated, and rifles and machineguns on the ridge were able to decimate fleeing German units as well as potential reinforcements. Tanks were used too, though not exactly successfully since they all broke down, bogged down or were knocked out. The book has them as Mark IIs, and two photographs of them are included.

For all the apparent ease of victory the fighting was intense and hard, and did not achieve a complete breakthrough since the Germans fell back upon the Hindenburg Line. This is an excellent account of the battle, with good period photographs as well as modern ones showing something of the terrain. The maps and birds’-eye-views are as always excellent, and the plates are very interesting.

Recommended to all WWI modellers!

John Prigent

More details from Osprey Publishing

Read an extract at Osprey Publishing

Buy from amazon