Vimy Ridge – 9 April 1917:
At first light on Easter Monday, April 9, 1917, behind rolling barrages of artillery, 20,000 Canadians emerged from their tunnels on a front of almost five miles. In the face of heavy machine gun fire, they advanced through mud, shell holes and mine craters, breaking three successive German lines. The 15th Battalion, in the first assault wave on the right flank of the Canadian Corp’s line south of Neuville St. Vaast, approached the start line from the Maison Blanche tunnels, through the Douai subway, to fight east towards Nine Elms south of Thelus.
The first 23 Highlanders killed were placed in a temporary cemetery, “Grave CA 35, Neuville St. Vaast, 1000 yards west of Nine Elms Cemetery”. A further 39 were interred at CA39. The Regiment’s Vimy Cross was built by the regimental carpenter 447412 Pte Thomas Pollitt and erected the night of April 11/12 at CA 35. Later, 34 more names were added of men who died of wounds. Between 9 and 12 April the 15th Battalion suffered 90 men KIA and 175 wounded. The Cross lists only some of the names that died at Vimy Ridge, and these names are displayed in a gallery HERE.
Following the 1918 Armistice, both CA35 and CA39 were relocated to Nine Elms Cemetery. There, prior to 1923, the Canadian War Graves Commission replaced the wooden crosses with the permanent markers seen today.
More information on the attack on Vimy Ridge is HERE.
Repatriation of Cross to Canada:
In 1923, the 48th Highlanders of Canada acquired the 15th Battalion’s Vimy Cross from the CWGC, brought it to Toronto and installed it on 30 October 1925 in their University Avenue Armories’ home. When the Armoury was demolished in 1963, the cross was moved to their Old Comrades Club until its final move in 1997 to the Regimental Museum at St Andrew’s Church on King Street.
It is believed to be one of only five original Vimy Crosses repatriated to Canada. The balance were destroyed.
The complete story
A much more complete story of the history of this precious artifact is on the 15th Battalion CEF Memorial Project web site. The story includes the loan of the cross to the Vimy Visitor Education Centre for the 100th anniversary ceremonies of the attack on Vimy Ridge.