Today is the 93rd anniversary of the first day of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, April 9, 1917.
These journal entries come from one of the World War 1 pocket diaries of Canadian Artilleryman Harry Whitfield Mollins, my grandfather, lovingly transcribed over the years by my uncle, Carl Mollins, as part of a larger project to reproduce the diaries in digital and printed form.
Easter Sunday, April 8 Weather: Fine
Easter Sunday and a beautiful day. Nothing of importance happened. A few German shells dropped around the position. Our infantry goes over tomorrow in an attempt to capture Vimy Ridge. Expect it will be a big day.
Easter Monday, April 9 Weather: Fine
On fatigues all day. This is the day of the big “strafe.” There was a heavy bombardment at 5:30 a.m. and the infantry went over from Vimy Ridge to the right. Large numbers of prisoners and guns were taken. Vimy Ridge fell into our hands. Parties of prisoners passed our position all day. All seemed glad to have been captured. Our casualties were not very heavy. Nice parcel from mother this evening containing fountain pen, cake, candy, etc.
Tuesday, April 10 Weather: Fine
On the guns all day. Very quiet this morning. We started firing about 11:30 A.M. and from then till six fired 215 rounds. The infantry went over again this afternoon & gained their objective. More prisoners & guns were taken. The reports are very encouraging, in fact, too much so. However, everybody is very happy over the good results. “Fritz” put quite a few shells quite near our position today.
USA has entered the war on the side of the Allies.
Wednesday, April 11 Weather: Rain
On ammunition fatigues today. Had an easy day. “Fritz” shelled quite heavily today. Everything is still going favorably for us. Everyone is jubilant. We expect to be moving forward in a few days. On the guns all night. No firing up till twelve o’clock. Snowing very heavily this evening. “Fritz” shelled in this vicinity.
An ammunition dump of the No. 2 “Heavies” was blown up..
Thursday. April 12 Weather: Snow & Rain
We were called out at 3:30 A.M. and fired twenty rounds. At 5 A.M. there was a twenty minutes “strafe.” It was snowing and blowing something awful & very cold. Our infantry went over & gained their objective, and captured 600 prisoners. Off duty all day. It is reported this evening that 12,000 prisoners have been taken south of Arras, also 400 guns.
USA has declared war on Germany and severed relations with Austria. It is rumored the Argentine & Brazil are at war with Germany & have seized all Hun shipping in their ports.
Friday, April 13 Weather: Fine & warm
Easy day. A very interesting report of operations to date was posted this morning. Wancourt & Heeinel have been captured. The Hindenberg Line has been cleared 2,000 yds. south of Cojeul. The 1st Army (which includes the Canadians) has captured 4,000 prisoners, 33 guns, 112 Machine guns & 40 Trench Mortars. The Third Army on our right has captured 7,526 prisoners, 126 guns, 113 Machine guns, 44 Trench Mortars. The guns captured include 8”, 5.9”, 4.5” & field guns. “Fritz” has retired and our infantry is after him. Got orders to move this evening. #