Michaela Won a Trip to Ottawa
The essay and letter:
I would like to attend the Vimy Ridge Memorial Ceremony in Ottawa because I think it would be a great way to learn and understand more about Vimy Ridge. I wasn't taught much about Vimy Ridge in school so I think I would come back home with lots of information that I can share with my friends and family.
The Battle of Vimy Ridge was a military engagement fought primarily as part of the Battle of Arras, in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France during the first world war. The Canadian Corps consisted of the Canadian first, second, third and fourth Divisions combined for the first time - over 100 000 men were attempting to do what the British and French forces had tried from 1914-1916.
The objective of the Canadian Corp was to take control of the German held high ground along the ridge at the northernmost end of the Arras Offensive. This would ensure that the southern flank could advance without suffering German fire. The Canadian Corps captured most of the ridge during the first day of the attack. The town of Thelus fell during the second day of the attack, as well as the crest of the ridge.
Vimy Ridge itself stands about 110 metres at high point and runs for 8-10 kilometres in length. The allied side of the ridge was a long gradual slope which made its way to the crest where a sharp drop fell into the expansive Douai Plain. The reality of the geography gave the Germans a clear and uninterrupted sight line of all enemy advances while the Allies could only use aircraft to see beyond the crest and into enemy held territory. The Germans had developed a series of three highly fortified defensive lines utilizing machine gun, artillery and barbed wire to produce ground that in their view could not be overtaken. To add to the defenses above ground, the Germans had constructed a vast network of underground tunnels and living quarters safely placed below a danger zone from artillery shells - equipped with electricity, medical facilities.
The ridge fell under German control in October 1914 during the Race to the Sea as the Franco-British and German forces continually attempted to outflank each other through northeastern France. The French Tenth Army attempted to dislodge the Germans from the region during the Second Battle of Aftois in May 1915 by attacking their positions at Vimy Ridge and Notre Dame de Lorette. The French 1st Moroccan Division managed to briefly capture the height of the ridge, but was unable to hold it owing to a lack of reinforcements. The French made another attempt during the Third Battle of Artois in September 1915, but only captured the town of Souchez at the western base of the ridge. The Vimy sector calmed following the offensive with both sides taking a largely live and let live approach. The French suffered approximately 150,000 casualties in their attempts to gain control of Vimy Ridge and surrounding territory.
Therefore, I think that it's important to learn more about the Battle of Vimy Ridge so that Canadians can realize what our Canadian troops had done for their country. About 100,000 men sacrificed their lives to defeat the Germans to help their allies. I think that it was brave for Canada to make that big of a Corps to send over to Vimy Ridge to fight for freedom. The men and women who fought in this battle would never be forgotten. I have a great-great uncle that served in the Battle of Vimy Ridge. He wrote a letter to his parents while he was in France.
Dear Mother and Father, I will try and answer your letter that I received a few days ago. I am getting quite well now and hope when this letter reaches you; it will find you all the same. Well Mother, there is not much news to write. I got the (illegible) alright but the cake was badly smashed. I saved most of the fruit cake but the other was all broken up. I forgot to tell you that I have given up smoking so don't send anymore cigarettes. I have not smoked for over three months. I thought that they were hurting me so I stopped smoking. Well, I don't know if I will get home this fall or not. I don't think they will send me back to France for I can't stand it out there. It needs men with nothing the matter to stand it. I was in the trenches for six days and I know what it was like; I had wet feet all the time, I was there standing in mud and water up to my middle. It happened to be a bad week as well I guess, they have had some hard weather since I left there and there have been quite a few casualties. It is a cruel war all right; you can't imagine what it is like when we went over the top to take Vimy Ridge. It was an awful sight walking over dead bodies and shells dropping all around us but I was lucky they did not hit me. There was some that came close enough but they happened to be dead shells. Well Mother, I guess I have written all I can think of for this time so I will have to close with love from your son, Harold. Write soon and don't worry so much about me for I'll be alright.
This letter was written on August 12, 1917
Master Seaman Michaela Newell
A snapshot of Michaela at the airport. Of course she loves having her photo taken :)