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Historical Investigation Why were the Canadians successful at the Battle of Vimy Ridge?Lara AkarMr. RovereWord count: 2269Section 1: Identification and Evaluation of Sources This Investigation focuses on Canadian involvement in WW1 and will discuss “Why were Canadians successful at the Battle of Vimy Ridge?” The first source chosen for this investigation is the book “A Reader’s Companion to Military History” written by Tim Travers. He accounts for Canadian warfare and tactics used during the battle which led to Canadian victory and the second source is an article written by Christopher Ute who translates a German War Commanders perspective and accounts for their defeat. Both sources are significant because they’re secondary sources providing insight on the battle using collective information. The first source is a book written by Tim Travers in 1996 titled “A Reader’s Guide to Military History”. The origin of this source is valuable because Travers has a degree in history at Yale University. He’s been a history professor at the University of Calgary for over 20 years and specializes in British warfare and that of its Empire.This is valuable because Canada was apart of the British Empire at the time indicating that Travers is knowledgeable on the topic, increasing the his credibility and making the source more reliable. Furthermore the date of publication of this book was 1996, with hindsight giving him plenty time to analyze loads of sources. The purpose of Travers’ book is to educate people about military warfare specifically during WW1 and is an academic journal meant for high schoolers. The publishing company he writes for, the Houghton Mifflin Company is a global leader in educational content and services, making his book a reliable source. Values of the content in this source are that its purpose is to educate scholars, the content has been simplified so students can understand the information. Limitations of the origin are since he mostly specializes in British warfare, it’s uncertain whether or not the information he’s presenting is accurate so the historical validity cannot be assured. Limitations of the purpose are since it’s directed use is for scholars a historian might not find this useful because it’s just a general overview meant for scholars and doesn’t go into depth. A limitation of the content is that the author is Canadian so he might be bias and wont take account the German side of the story. The second source is an article translated by Christopher and Ute Wilde-Linnell in 2006 titled “The German 79th Reserve Infantry Division in the Battle of Vimy Ridge”. The origin of this source is valuable because he’s translating what Alfred Dieterich who was Lieutenant-General of the 79th Reserve Brigade during the battle, said. Christopher and Ute’s article was included in many books about Vimy and published by Wilfred Laurier University making it a credible source. The date of publication is 2006 giving them plenty of time to ensure that they properly translated the primary source in English. Values of the purpose are to provide a German perspective on the battle and to educate scholars on Germany’s position in the battle. Values of the content are that it offers the perspective on factors that contributed to their loss but still accounts for Canadian victory. Limitations of the Origin is that Dieterich didn’t personally witness everything he’s talking about, he had information passed onto him which might make some of the information historically invalid. Limitations of the content are that since it’s translated, some details might be left out making the text inaccurate and it’s speaking of just 1 division not all, and another limitation is that Dieterich might make be bias and say that “Germans didn’t lose to Canadians we just weren’t prepared” and might try to take away the Canadian glory. Limitations of the purpose are that it’s for scholars so it’s maybe to oversimplified for historians.Section 2: Investigation For many people and historians Canada was considered a nation1 in April of 1917 when Canadian men put forth their lives in order to win the Battle of Vimy Ridge fought in Northern France. In his book A Reader’s Guide to Military History Travers says “This battle was where Canadians got international recognition for their strong war efforts and tactics”2 meaning Canadians were successful at Vimy because they spent a great amount of time planning for the battle and had experience from past battles. Lots of new artillery and tactics were introduced and the involvement of engineers also contributed to their success because everything was strategically layed out.Canadian success at Vimy is due to extensive preparations and training the troops underwent prior to the battle. Sir Julian Byng’s appointment as Commander of the Canadian Corps3 led to their victory because Byng started planning for this battle in advance. Troops spent a whole season training for the battle and shipped loads of artillery. He had 12 tunnels dug under the front line so his troops would be protected from German artillery4, tram tracks, trenches and roads to haul supplies forward. Byng had a scale model of the ridge built and had all his men study it, also handing the men maps so they knew what they were doing every second of the battle. He had troops trained on a similar terrain to get a sense of how to advance into enemy lines, they were also capturing prisoners5 and tried to obtain as much information from them as possible. Sir Julian Byng had been involved in plenty other battles and he knew what improvements needed to be taken to successfully capture the Ridge.Their battle plan needed to be mastered because Britain and France had previously tried to gain possession of this Ridge but failed losing a lot of men6. New Artillery and tactics applied to the battle of Vimy were key to Canadian victory because these things would be used to push back enemy lines in order to capture the Ridge. Due to extensive preparations, Canadians had an unlimited artillery supply allowing them to make continuous vicious attacks on enemy fronts. In past British and French battles they just ordered their men to rush into enemy territory in a straight line or in large waves, this method was really insufficient and by 1917 Canadians had figured this out. A tactic called the “Creeping Barrage” was used in the battle so they could attack German lines with artillery and infantry7, men were followed by a barrage of artillery allowing them to advance 100 yards every 3 minutes. This had to be well rehearsed so men wouldn’t be killed by their own artillery. A quote from General Byng “You shall go over exactly like a railroad train, on the exact time, or you shall be annihilated.” 8 Meaning if they move too fast they’ll die. Germans had underestimated Canadian warfare abilities because they had only expected 24hrs of shelling from the Canadians then an attack where the Germans would leave their trenches and fight them, but instead Canadians spent 2 weeks shelling them, and when they stopped the Germans were taken by surprise that the Canadians had already reached their trenches. The effects of the shelling was referred to by Germans as the week of suffering9, it was meant to weaken enemy troops which it did by cutting off their supplies from reaching the front and it made them flee their trenches and protected positions from fear of an infantry attack killing them all. In the article he translated, Christopher wrote “A hailstorm of iron such as nobody had ever experienced fell on German positions”10 here Christopher is accounting for the German perspective on enemy shelling saying that they were being so heavily bombarded that it was basically hailing shells. Another citation from Charlie’s article while recounts the flow of the 4 day battle with the Canadian corps and his men “Dieterich recalls the inability of German counter attacks to dislodge the enemy from newly won positions along the Ridge”11 Here Dieterich was talking about how the Germans were unable to defend themselves and regain possession of “their” captured land. Very sensitive fuses were some of the new artillery introduced because it would explode on contact, this would prevent the shell from becoming buried underground where it would be useless. Canadians were able to identify over 80%12 of German guns and the new sensitive fuses that wrecked barbed wire making the Canadians’ path to combat easier. Engineers played a crucial role in the success of Canadians at Vimy mainly due to tunnels. No Man’s Land had plenty of tunnels left behind by the British and French which the Canadians utilized and they also dug 12 additional tunnels calling them “Subways”13. They were essentially built so they can hide their men so that Germans don’t suspect an attack. These tunnels were equipped with lighting, food, communication lines running underground, dressing stations which is are first-aid post where they would get diagnosed and get medical attention away from combat. These tunnels also served as protection for the Canadians because they could haul back injured people to safety without having to cross no man’s land. There were also chambers for headquarters and they also served as ammunition stores. The tunnels could be filled up with artillery and once set off, would create massive indents in the terrain making it even more difficult for enemy troops to cross over allied lines. Engineers were also brought in to build trenches so that the Canadians could hold a defensive position and train tracks were built for the purpose of transporting supplies and ammunition to the front line. After three days of fighting the battle resulted in around 10,60014 Canadian casualties, 3,60015 of whom were killed during combat. Canadians were without a doubt successful at the Battle of Vimy Ridge because so much hard work and dedication was put into gaining possession of the Ridge from the Germans. Canadians had to re-evaluate all of their warfare approaches and tactics in order to defeat the Germans. The Canadians didn’t leave anything to chance in this battle, they mapped down enemy positions and identified German batteries and destroyed them with the use of aerial photography. The way Canadians fought this battle became an example for how other battles were to be fought and is highly looked upon. Vimy is considered to be a turning point in Canadian history because it was one of the most defining moments of WW1 especially because it marked their first victory and all 4 of their divisions fighting together. Also because at the time Canadians were still considered one of Britain’s colonies but after Vimy Canada is seen more as an independent country and they’re much more highly regarded by other nations,. In conclusion the battle of Vimy Ridge is Canada’s greatest loss of men but greatest victory in the First World War. Lastly a quote accounting for his first thoughts after Vimy from Brigadier- General Alexander Ross who was commander of the 28th Battalion at Vimy Ridge in 1917, “It was Canada from the Atlantic to the Pacific on parad. I thought then, and I think today, that in those few minutes, I witnessed the birth of a nation.”16Section 3: Reflection Methods used by a historian are they must consult a variety of sources. Completing this investigation allowed me to gain an insight on some methods used by historians while carrying out a historical investigation because as I did my topic and investigated the battle of Vimy Ridge I tried using a diverse range of sources. I’ve also learned that historians must analyze their sources to detect biases. This is something I checked for in my sources using the OPCVL format, and I found that it worked for me. Another method historians use is to try and pick sources that aren’t really similar. I tried to incorporate that while choosing my sources because I don’t want two Canadian accounts on the battle that share the same point of view because it’s agreeing with what’s already known. Finding sources about the same topic but different perspectives is more efficient, which is what I tried doing. Vimy was fought by Germans and Canadians so I made one of my sources account for a German perspective and a Canadian one for the other. While doing the OPCVL on my primary source for the Lieutenant-General Commander of the German division which tried to defend the Ridge, I noticed that he wasn’t battling against Canadians so most of his account was addressing what had been told to him by others and we can’t say with certainty whoever informed him of the events saw and retold the event correctly. That’s one challenge historian’s might encounter, another challenge is that it’s impossible for a historian to know with absolute certainty what happened because all sources are biased whether it’s intentional or not. I encountered this problem during my investigation because i’m naturally gonna agree that the battle was successful because i’m Canadian. Even if you forget about that, I looked at a source’s content and I got to pick which parts of the source I want to use. Which for historians means they can choose whichever part of their sources they would like to use. So it’s impossible to avoid biases within your investigation because your investigation question needs to be answered and you need to agree with something. People don’t acknowledge that it’s very easy to judge a source and pick out the parts that you think are irrelevant to your investigation, but the whole point is to analyze someone’s perspective and you can’t do that unless you keep in mind the time frame, emotions the person felt, and society at the time. Seeing things as they were back is important, otherwise the purpose and meaning of the source will be misinterpreted.