In honor of today’s ceremonies for the 100th anniversary of the battle at Vimy Ridge, I am reposting several articles about my own ancestors who died in WWI.
In my father’s French Canadian, ‘Turmaine’ branch of the family, we have two known soldiers who died in the first world war. The first was my grand uncle, Pte. Joseph Philias Albert Emery, who died at Vimy Ridge, and the second was another grand uncle, Pte. Joseph Turmaine, who died at Courcelette.
The Battle of Vimy Ridge was fought largely by Canadian troops consisting of all four divisions of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) from April 9 to 12, 1917, with the objective of gaining control of the German held high ground, ensuring that the southern flank of the forces could advance without the threat of German fire.
What we don’t hear about the battle of Vimy Ridge is how so many of our own troops lost their lives due to poor leadership in the days prior to the battle.
The Battle of Vimy Ridge was the catalyst for a newly born nationalistic pride for Canadians and their achievements as part of the British forces.
What we don’t hear much about, however, is the disastrous actions taken previously in preparation for the battle.
As described in my previous post ‘War Stories‘, my own great granduncle (brother to my grandmother) was Pte. Joseph Phillias Albert Emery, a soldier with the 73rd Battalion Canadian Infantry, Black Watch. He took part in operations in preparation for the advance on Vimy Ridge and was reported missing on March 1, 1917.
The majority of the losses during this operation were the result of mismanagement by the senior officers. As a result of poor planning, the gas canisters were deployed despite the winds blowing back onto the Canadians, causing mass casualties from the gas.
Below are the six pages of the war diary for the 73rd Battalion on the day my ancestor went missing. In another previous post, I’ve published full transcriptions of all the pages.
Related articles on this site about Vimy Ridge: