Holger Herwig


On 9 April 1917 four Canadian divisions and one British division of 170,000 men broke through the “Vimy Group” of German Sixth Army of some 40,000 men. By late afternoon, the Germans had been driven off the Ridge. That day, as Brigadier-General Alexander Ross famously put it, constituted “the birth of a nation.” Rivers on ink have been spilled in the Canadians’ actions that day, but little attention has been paid to “the other side of the hill.” Which German units defended the Ridge? What was the quality of their leadership? Why did the defence collapse so quickly? Why did the German soldiers not break and run? And how were they able to prevent a deeper British-Canadian breakthrough? On the basis of German sources, this article seeks to provide answers to those questions