Monday 9 April 1917 – We Lost 7,149

by greatwarliveslost

Battle of Vimy Ridge

Comprising a famed attack upon the heights which crucially overlooks the plains of Artois the Battle of Vimy Ridge sees the Canadian Corps sweep away firmly entrenched German defenders.

Some 12km northeast of Arras Vimy Ridge gained early importance during the war on account of the heights which overlooked the Allied-held town.  German forces seized control of the ridge in September 1914 and promptly constructed deep defensive positions comprising bunkers, caves, passages and artillery-proof trenches, heavily protected by concrete machine gun emplacements.

With such formidable defensive precautions in place the German army rapidly set about the steady destruction of Arras, pounding the town with heavy artillery – apparently with impunity.  French attempts to grab control of the ridge throughout 1915 were bloodily repulsed with the loss of some 150,000 French casualties.  Although the British relieved French operations in March 1916 they were pushed back along a 2km front before they could commence aggressive measures.

There matters lay pending the wide-scale Arras offensive scheduled for the spring of 1917. As part of this offensive the Canadian Corps, operating under British General Julian Byng, are tasked with the decisive recapture of Vimy Ridge.  In preparation for this the Canadians construct miles of tunnels through which troops can pass in readiness for the opening of the attack without coming under shellfire.  Aerial reconnaissance using observation balloons ensures accurate news of German movements.

At dawn this morning of Easter Monday the Canadians attack comprising four divisions begins following a heavy three-week British artillery barrage which is supported by a well-devised creeping barrage.

Within thirty minutes the Canadian 1st Division, under Arthur Currie, has succeeded in capturing German front line positions in spite of a snowstorm and within a further half hour the second line has also been taken by the Canadian.

With the entire ridge wholly under Allied control by 12 April (when Hill 145, the highest feature on the ridge, falls) the operation is judged a spectacular success, the single most successful Allied advance on the Western Front to date.  The ridge will remain in Allied hands for the remainder of the war. It does not come without cost however: 10,602 Canadians are wounded during the attack, and 3,598 killed.  The opposing German force suffers even more heavily with 20,000 casualties.

Private William Johnstone Milne (Manitoba Regiment) near Thelus observes an enemy machine gun firing on our advancing troops. Crawling on hands and knees, he succeeds in reaching the gun, killing the crew with bombs, and capturing the gun. On the line re-forming, he again locates a machine gun in the support line, and stalking this second gun as he had done the first, he succeeds in putting the crew out of action and capturing the gun. His wonderful bravery and resource on these two occasions undoubtedly saved the lives of many of his comrades. Private Milne is killed shortly after capturing the second gun at age 24. He will be awarded the posthumous Victoria Cross for his actions this day.                                                                                               At Neuville-St.-Vaast, France during an attack on enemy trenches, Lance-Sergeant Ellis Westwood Sifton’s company of the Western Ontario Regiment is held up by machine-gunners who have survived the artillery barrage by taking refuge in concrete shelters. As the Canadians move forward, the enemy’s machine guns sweep the battlefield, causing heavy casualties. Sifton sees the enemy’s machine gun nest first. He jumps up, rushes forward and leaps into the trench. He then charges into the enemy gun crew and knocks the gun over before turning on the gunners with his bayonet, killing each man. More Canadians rush forward but a small German party moves down the trench towards Sifton. He uses his bayonet and his rifle as a club to fight them off until help arrives. Despite these efforts, Sifton is killed during the fight. For his actions on this day Sergeant Sifton will awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross.

The steamer S S Torrington is sunk by U-55 with the loss of her entire crew including firemen Joe (age 31) and John (29) Johnson. They are both born in Sierra Leone.

Today’s losses include:

  • Multiple Victoria Cross winners
  • A Humane Society Medal holder
  • Multiple families that will lose two and three sons in the Great War
  • Multiple brothers killed together
  • A son of the 6th Prime Minister of Canada
  • The son of a member of Parliament
  • Multiple sons of members of the clergy
  • Multiple men whose father will lose his life on service
  • A man show son will be killed in the Second World War
  • Multiple battalion commanders
  • The son of a member of the clergy
  • The son of a Justice of the Peace
  • A Great War Poet and novelist
  • The brother of a Great War Poet
  • A Rhodes scholar
  • A military chaplain
  • The Superintendant of Police in Assam
  • A grandson of the founder of Thomas Nelson Publishing
  • A Scottish Rugby International
  • The son of a General
  • A Derbyshire cricketer
  • A Rangers footballer
  • The son of a Councillor
  • A Huddersfield Town and Hartlepool United footballer
  • A Sheffield and Chesterton footballer
  • A center forward for Brechin City FC

Today’s highlighted casualties include:

Manitoba Regiment casualties:

  • Major Gordon Ruthven Heron (Manitoba Regiment) is killed in action at age 33. He had been awarded the Humane Society Medal at the age of 15 for saving five lives.
  • Captain Daniel Gordon Campbell (Manitoba Regiment) is killed in action at age 29. His brother was killed in August 1915.
  • Captain Victor Gordon Tupper MC (Manitoba Regiment) is killed in action at aged 21. He is the son of the 6th Prime Minister of Canada ‘the Honorable’ Sir Charles Hibbert Tupper KCMG and Lady Tupper.
  • Private Charles Gentle (Manitoba Regiment) is killed at age 22. His brother will be killed next September.
  • Private Herbert Charles Benstead (Manitoba Regiment) is killed at age 28. His brother was killed in November 1916.
  • Private John Noel Steadman (Manitoba Regiment) is killed in action at age 21. His brother will die in October of this year. They are sons of the Reverend W Steadman.
  • Private John McCluny (Manitoba Regiment) is killed at age 28. His brother will die on service in Germany in May 1919.

Other Canadian Casualties:

  • Major John Hales Sweet (British Columbia Regiment) is killed at age 38. He is the son of the Venerable Archdeacon J H S Sweet.
  • Major Walter Eyre Curry (Central Ontario Regiment) is killed at age 26. He is the son of James Walter Curry KC MP.
  • Captain Walter Willett Pickup (Quebec Regiment) is killed at age 23. He is the son of the Honorable S S S Pickup.
  • Lieutenant John Douglas Armstrong (Canadian Engineers) is killed at age 28. He is the son of the late Reverend W D Armstrong PhD DD.
  • Lieutenant Joseph Rodolhe Alexandre La Violette (Quebec Regiment) is killed at age 22. His father will die on service in August of this year.
  • Lieutenant Murray McKay Winchester (Central Ontario Regiment) is killed in action at age 19. He is the son of the Reverend A B Winchester.
  • Sergeant David Ainslie Hunter (Central Ontario Regiment) is killed at age 26. He is the son of the Reverend James Hunter.
  • Sergeant Herbert Ward (Central Ontario Regiment) is killed in action at age 26. His brother will be killed in November 1917.
  • Corporal Frank Le Breton MM (Canadian Field Artillery) is killed at age 31. His son with the same name will lose his life at the end of the Second World War.
  • Corporal Hamish Kinnear Maitland-Dougall (Central Ontario Regiment) is killed in action at age 19. His older brother will die less than one year later in the loss of the submarine D3.
  • Lance Corporal William Stewart Telfer (Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry) is killed at age 27. His twin brother was killed last July.
  • Private Stanley Tom Stokes (Western Ontario Regiment) is killed at age 16. His father will be killed serving in the same regiment in September.
  • Private Max Harris (Quebec Regiment) is killed in action at age 20. His stepbrother will be killed in November of this year.
  • Brothers Oliver, 27, and Wilfred Chenier, 28, Privates in the Royal Canadian Regiment are killed during the attack on Vimy Ridge. They are buried in adjacent graves in Cabaret Rouge British Cemetery.
  • Arthur, 28, and Bill West, 26, of the Quebec Regiment are killed together and then buried in adjacent graves in Nine Elms Cemetery, Thelus. A third brother will be killed in September.
  • Private E Cecil Short (Quebec Regiment) is killed at age 19. His brother died of wounds in July 1916 on the Somme.
  • Private William McCallum (Quebec Regiment) is killed. His brother was killed in December 1916.
  • Private Archie Hook (Central Ontario Regiment) is killed two weeks after his brother was killed with the Royal West Kent Regiment.
  • Private James Oliver (Central Ontario Regiment) is killed at age 19. His brother was killed in April 1915.
  • Private William Henry Lloyd (Central Ontario Regiment) is killed at age 24. His brother will be killed less than two miles from the spot where William falls in two weeks.

Also lost:

  • Lieutenant Colonel Edward William Hermon DSO (King Edward’s Horse commanding 24th Tyneside Irish) is killed at age 38. His last words to his adjutant are “go on”. His letters home will be published as For Love and Courage will be published by his granddaughter in 1991.
  • Lieutenant Colonel Harold Underhill Hatton Thorne (Berkshire Regiment commanding 12th Royal Scots) is killed. His brother was killed last month.
  • Brevet Major (Temporary Lieutenant Colonel) Charles James Burke DSO (Royal Irish Regiment commanding 1st East Lancashire Regiment) is killed at age 35. He is a veteran of the South African War.
  • Major William John Brooke (King’s Shropshire Light Infantry) is killed in action at age 42. He is the son of Lady Wilhelmina Brooke who also lost a son in May 1915.
  • Captain Eric Fitzgerald Clarke (London Regiment) is killed in action at Neuville Vitasse at age 23. His brother will be killed in August 1918 and they are sons of ‘Sir’ Frederick W A Clark and Lady Clark.
  • Captain R G K Money (East Kent Regiment) is killed at age 18. He is one of three brothers all of whom will be killed in the Great War.
  • Captain Geoffrey Laird Jackson (Rifle Brigade) dies of wounds by a shell at age 23. He played cricket for Derbyshire from 1912 to 1914 including the county championship in 1914 and is the son of Brigadier General Geoffrey Meinerthagen Jackson.
  • Captain Arthur Evelyn Dent (King’s Royal Rifle Corps) is killed near Arras at age 20. His brother will be killed next March.
  • Captain the Reverend John Spence Grant MC (Gordon Highlanders) is killed at age 27.
  • Lieutenant Kenneth John Wharton Mowbray (Suffolk Regiment) is killed at age 20. He is the son of the Reverend John Wharton Mowbray Rector of Toppesfield.
  • Lieutenant Maurice Edward Pelham Burn (Black Watch) is killed in action. His brother was killed in May 1915. They are sons of the Venerable William Pelham Burn the Archdeacon of Norfolk.
  • Lieutenant Charles Arthur Robinson (Inniskilling Fusiliers attached Machine Gun Corps) is killed at age 20. He is the son of the Reverend Canon Charles Albert Robinson.
  • Lieutenant Alastair Ebenezer Buchan (Scots Fusiliers) is killed in action at age 22. He is the son of the Reverend John Buchan.
  • Lieutenant Arthur David Flett (Royal Scots) is killed. His two brothers were killed previously in the war.
  • Lieutenant Arthur Stanley Mack (Lancashire Regiment) is killed at age 23. His brother was killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.
  • Lieutenant Samuel Reginald Parsons (Wiltshire Regiment) is killed at age 20. His brother will be killed in March 1918.
  • Second Lieutenant John Douglas Blakely (Gordon Highlanders) is killed in action at age 22. He is the third grandson of the late Reverend Doctor Blakely to be killed in the Great War.
  • Second Lieutenant Charles Henry Merriman (Wiltshire Regiment) is killed in action at age 23. He is the son of Reverend Canon Charles Victor Merriman of St Mary’s Rectory, Hulme Manchester.
  • Second Lieutenant Harry Erskine Tyser (Black Watch) is killed at age 43. He was the donator of 3,000 pounds sterling in December 1915 and January 1916 of two gifts to the Council for the provision of guns and machine guns wishing that his name not be associated with the gifts.
  • Second Lieutenant William Percival Ferguson (Royal Scots) is killed at age 21. He is the son of Thomas Ferguson JP.
  • Second Lieutenant Owen Bennett Goold Johnson (Suffolk Regiment) is killed at age 28. His brother, a Great War Poet, was killed last July.
  • Second Lieutenant John Hastings Folliott Scott (Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry) is killed in action at age 22. He is the son of the Reverend Richard Curtis Rector of Hulcote and has a brother who was killed in March 1916.
  • Second Lieutenant Frederick Ashcroft (Liverpool Regiment) is killed at age 31 in action at Arras. Two of his brothers will lose their lives next year.
  • Second Lieutenant Hubert Victor Day (Royal Fusiliers) is killed at age 23. He is the son of the Reverend John Day.
  • Second Lieutenant Walter Josiah Pearse MC (Royal Horse Artillery) is killed at age 26. He is a Rhodes Scholar.
  • Chaplain Herbert John Collins (attached Black Watch) dies on active service at age 35.
  • Second George Lothian Stewart (Royal Scots) is killed at age 22. His brother was killed in June 1915 on Gallipoli.
  • Second Lieutenant John Stein Ronaldson (Cameron Highlanders) is killed. His brother will be killed next December.
  • Second Lieutenant Alfred Chalmers Hay (Gordon Highlanders) is killed at age 36. He is the Superintendent of Police in Assam.
  • Second Lieutenant Edwin Relfe Barrett Middleton (Seaforth Highlanders) is killed at age 27. His brother was killed in June 1915.
  • Second Lieutenant Clement Barrington Furmstron (Machine Gun Corps) is killed at age 22. He is the son of the Reverend Samuel C Furmston Rector of Blackwell.
  • Second Lieutenant John Wulstan Bolland (Norfolk Regiment) is killed. He is the son of the Reverend William Ernest Bolland Rector of Denton.
  • Second Lieutenant Arthur Pelham Webb (Shropshire Light Infantry) is killed at age 32. He leaves a volume of poetry to Sedbergh School.
  • Sergeant David Glen (Royal Scots) MM is killed at age 36. He is a center forward for the Brechin City football club.
  • Lance Sergeant George MacGregor (South African Infantry) is killed. His two brothers have been killed previously in the Great War.
  • Lance Corporal James W Revill (Royal Engineers) is killed. He played football for Sheffield United and Chesterton.
  • Lance Corporal Edward Bolton (Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry) is killed at age 38. He is the last of three brothers who are killed in the war.
  • Lance Corporal George Thomas Clover (Seaforth Highlanders) is killed at age 23. His older half-brother died of wounds in September 1914.
  • Lance Corporal Sidney James (King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry) is killed at age 26. He played football for Huddersfield Town and Hartlepool United.
  • Lance Corporal Leonard Farrar (Northumberland Fusiliers) is killed in action at age 34. His brother will drown in January 1918.
  • Lance Corporal John Telfer Kay (Royal Scots) is killed. His brother will die on service September 1919.
  • Lance Corporal T Smith (King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry) is killed in action. He is the middle of three brothers who lose their lives in the Great War.
  • Lance Corporal Christopher Grice (East Yorkshire Regiment) is killed at age 31. His brother died of illness on service in February 1916.
  • Lance Corporal Don Cameron (Seaforth Highlanders) is killed at age 28. His brother was killed in July 1916.
  • Private Benjamin Swanson (Seaforth Highlanders) is killed in action at Arras. His brother was killed in November 1916.
  • Private Cecil Christopher Betts (Essex Regiment) is killed in action at age 33. His brother will die of wounds in October 1917.
  • Private John Connor (Gordon Highlanders) is killed in action. His two brothers were killed in September 1915.
  • Private Alexander Calder (Seaforth Highlanders) is killed in action at age 22. He is one of three brothers who will be killed in the Great War.
  • Private Alfred Moorhouse (Royal Fusiliers) is killed in action at age 20. He is the son of Councillor Moorhouse.
  • Private Alfred Henry James (Royal West Kent Regiment) dies of wounds. His brother was killed in September 1915.
  • Private George Albert Gates (Suffolk Regiment) is killed at age 24. His brother was killed in May 1915.
  • Private Harry Gildea (Black Watch) is killed. He played for the Rangers Football Club.
  • Private Peter Campbell (Royal Scots) is killed at age 38. His brother will die of wounds in September of this year.
  • Private Herbert Middleton (East Yorkshire Regiment) is killed exactly five months before his brother meets the same fate.
  • Robert Anderson is killed in action. His brothers were killed together in October 1915.
  • Private Fred Smith (King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry) is killed at age 36. His younger brother was killed in May 1916.
  • Private Matthew Muir Liddell (Royal Scots) is killed at age 22. He is the middle of three brothers who will lose their lives the in the Great War. The first was killed in September 1915 while the final will be killed in August 1918.
  • Private Walter Willie Goodger (Norfolk Regiment) is killed at age 23. His brother will be killed in July of this year.
  • Gunner Cyril Ralph Vane Smith De Heriz (Royal Horse Artillery) is killed at age 31. He is the son of the Reverend Lionel Forbes Van Smith de Heriz, who will lose two other sons in the Great War.
  • Private James Inglis (West Yorkshire Regiment) is killed at age 24. His brother was killed in July 1916.
  • Private Arthur Walker (York and Lancs Regiment) is killed at age 24. He is the middle of three brothers who will be killed in the Great War.
  • Private Alexander Murray (Royal Scots) is killed at age 23 as the middle of three brothers who are killed in consecutive years serving in the same regiment.
  • Private Alexander Calder (Seaforth Highlanders) is killed. He is the first of three brothers who will be killed in the Great War.
  • Private W Elcock (Shropshire Light Infantry) is killed at age 25. His brother will be killed in March 1918.
  • Private Thomas Hall (Northumberland Fusiliers) is killed. His brother will be killed in August.
  • Private Frederick William Crofts (East Kent Regiment) is killed in action. His brother will be killed in August 1918.
  • Private Edgar Wilkinson Jones (York and Lancaster Regiment) is killed at age 27. His brother was killed in February 1915 and they are sons of Canon Thomas Jones. Private James Twidell (Northumberland Fusiliers) is killed at age 26. His brother will die on service in April 1918.
  • Private William Gorton (Machine Gun Corps) is killed at age 20. His brother was killed last July.
  • Private Matthew Acrid (Northumberland Fusiliers) is killed at age 25. His brother Edwin will also lose his life in the Great War.
  • Private Albert John Pendrick (Manitoba Regiment) is killed at age 27. He is the first of three brothers who will be killed in the Great War.
  • Private Stephen Leonard Dawson (Seaforth Highlanders of Canada) is killed in action. He is the son of the Reverend Leonard Dawson.
  • Private Norman Douglas Tatton (Canadian Grenadier Guards) is killed at age 34. His brother will be killed in April 1918 and they are sons of the Reverend Dan Hatton.
  • Private William Graysmark (Central Ontario Regiment) is killed at age 36. He is the middle of three brothers who are killed in the Great War.
  • Bombardier Oliver Cromwell Dubois DCM (Royal Field Artillery) is killed at age 28 two days after his brother met the same fate.
  • Private F Witherow (Canadian Machine Gun Corps) is killed at age 31. His brother was killed in October 1915.
  • Private Robert James Boyd (Seaforth Highlanders of Canada) is killed at age 20. His brother was killed in June 1916.
  • Private Dene Barrett Frey (Australian Infantry) is killed. His brother was killed last August.
  • Captain Thomas Arthur Nelson III (Lothian and Border Horse attached Machine Gun Corps) is killed at age 40. He was a Scottish rugby union player who capped for Scotland in 1898. John Buchan, author of the novel The Thirty Nine Steps who was later to become Lord Tweedsmuir and Governor General of Canada, knew him at Oxford and later described him as “in some ways the most conspicuous figure of our academic generation.” ”His death left an aching sense of bereavement in a great multitude not only of friends but of slight and casual acquaintances. He had his roots so deep and far spread that his loss made a bigger hole in the life of Scotland than would have been the case perhaps with any other man of his years.” He was the grandson of the founder of the publishing firm Thomas Nelson Publishing.
  • Second Lieutenant Philip Edward Thomas (Royal Garrison Artillery) is killed by an exploding shell at Arras. The son of a civil servant from Wales, Thomas was born in London on 3 March 1878.  After his education at St Paul’s School and Lincoln College, Oxford, he became a writer of reviews and topographical works.  In 1909 Thomas published a biography of Richard Jeffries, the writer and naturalist.  This work is followed by the novel “The Happy-Go-Lucky Morgans” (1913). In spite of the fact that he is married and has two children in the summer of 1915 Thomas enlists as a private in the Artist Rifles. The following year he is made a junior officer in the Royal Artillery.  Lieutenant Thomas began writing war poetry in 1915 after receiving encouragement from his friend Robert Frost but only a few of these are published before he is killed include No One Cares Less Than I, This is No Case of Petty Right or Wrong, The Cherry Trees, Old Man and A Private.

Rain

Rain, midnight rain, nothing but wild rain

On this bleak hut, and solitude, and me

Remembering again that I shall die

And neither hear the rain nor give it thanks

For washing me cleaner than I have been

Since I was born into this solitude.

Blessed are the dead that the rain rains upon:

But I hear I pray that none who once I loved

Is dying tonight of lying still awake

Solitary, listening to the rain, Either in pain or thus in sympathy

Helpless among the living and the dead,

Like a cold water among broken reeds

Myriads of broken reeds all still and stiff,

Like me who have no love which this wild rain

Has not dissolved exept the love of death,

If love it be towards what is perfect and

Cannot, the tempest tell em, disappoint.

  • Second Lieutenant Robert Ernest Vernede (Rifle Brigade) dies of wounds received in action at age 41. He is a noted Great War Poet and novelist. His “War Poems” will be published in 1918. He was educated at St Paul’s School and at St John’s College, Oxford.  On leaving college he became a professional writer, producing several novels and two books of travel sketches, one dealing with India, the other with Canada.  He is also the author of a number of poems. At the outbreak of the war he enlisted in the Royal Fusiliers later being commissioned in the Rifle Brigade in May 1915. He went to France in November 1915 and was wounded during the Battle of the Somme in September 1916 returning to the front in December. His poems include: A Listening Post, Before the Assault, The Sergeant and At Delville.

To C.H.V.

What shall I bring to you, wife of mine,
When I come back from the war?
A ribbon your dear brown hair to twine?
A shawl from a Berlin store?
Say, shall I choose you some Prussian hack
When the Uhlans we o’erwhelm?
Shall I bring you a Potsdam goblet back
And the crest from a Prince’s helm?

Little you’d care what I laid at your feet,
Ribbon or crest or shawl –
What if I bring you nothing, sweet,
Nor maybe come home at all?
Ah, but you’ll know, Brave Heart, you’ll know
Two things I’ll have kept to send;
Mine honour for which you bade me go
And my love – my love to the end.

Second Lieutenant Walter Lightowler Wilkinson (Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders) is killed at Vimy Ridge at age 19.  He wrote the following poem.

The Wayside Burial

Their bringing in their recent dead – their recent dead!
I see the shoulder badge: a “Southern crush.”
How small he looks – (O damn that singing thrush!)
Not five foot five from boots to battered head!…
Give him a kindly burial, my friends, –
So much is due, when some such loyal life ends!
“For Country! …. Ay, and so our brave do die:
Comrade unknown, God rest to you! – Good-bye!

Its reeded: he is buried!
Comrade, sleep!
A wooden cross at your brave head will stand.
A cross of wood? A Calvary! – The Land
For whose sake you laid down sweet life, will keep
Watch, lad, and ward that none may bring to shame
That Name for which you died!…”What’s in a name”? –
England shall answer! you will hear her cry :
“Well done, my own! my son – God rest: Good-bye!”

Sergeant Charles Stewart MacKenzie (Seaforth Highlanders) is purportedly bayoneted to death at age 35, while defending one of his badly injured colleagues in the hand to hand fighting of the trenches. Years later his grandson will write the following poem in his honor. As a song the poem was featured in the Hollywood movie, “We Were Soldiers” directed by Randall Wallace & starring Mel Gibson.

Lay me down in the cold cold ground
Where before many more have gone
Lay me down in the cold cold ground
Where before many more have gone

When they come I will stand my ground
Stand my ground I’ll not be afraid

Thoughts of home take away my fear
Sweat and blood hide my veil of tears

Once a year say a prayer for me
Close your eyes and remember me

Never more shall I see the sun
For I fell to a Germans gun

Lay me down in the cold cold ground
Where before many more have gone
Lay me down in the cold cold ground
Where before many more have gone
Where before many more have gone