is situated in Northern France and was never very far from the front
In the spring of 1917 it became the focus once more of an intended
Allied advance. Key to this advance was the capture of Vimy Ridge.
This had been in German hands since the start of the War and allowed them to
keep control over the surrounding territory. The Germans were
well aware of its strategic importance and it was extremely well fortified. However,
if the Allies were to advance it was crucial that Vimy Ridge was
The task was given to the Canadian army with support from the British
clear that the lessons of the Somme had been heeded. Before the attack,
a very effective three week long bombardment took place. Rather than
being a general attack however, certain positions such as trench junctions,
telephone exchanges, Machine Gun points and artillery positions were
targeted using information gained from various intelligence reports.
This bombardment was very successful and it has been estimated that
around 80% of the German batteries were taken out before the Canadian
advance. Moreover, supply lines to the German trenches were also very
seriously affected leaving the enemy short of food, water and ammunition.
moving across the battlefield near Arras, 1917. Taken from The
Times History of the War Vol XIV, (DUL ref: XX+355.9403)
as part of this offensive that 18 DLI participated in the attack on
Gavrelle. Working in conjunction with the Royal Naval Division and three
battalions of the West Yorkshire Regiment, 18 DLI were tasked with capturing
the village which would then provide a salient into enemy territory.
The attack started on 3 May but was met with a furious response from
the Germans. The fighting was centred on a windmill which lay just outside
the village and provided a very useful vantage point. At various points
the Windmill fell into British hands only to be retaken by the enemy.
In the end, however, C Company of 18 DLI managed to throw off the Germans
and keep control. This was not the end of the action in this area. On
the night of 17/18 May, 18 DLI were ordered to attack Gavrelle trench.
Although some progress was made they were eventually forced back by
the Germans. Both sides suffered casualties. 18 DLI suffered the loss
of 1 officer and 8 men with a further 4 officers and nearly 60 men wounded.