The following is my full transcription of photocopies of the handwritten pages of the war diary of the 73rd Canadian Infantry Battalion for the Vimy Ridge Disaster of March 1-3, 1917, during which my great uncle Joseph Philias Albert Emery went missing in action.
Vol. VIII, Page I
- March 1st
Battalion in the lines on its regular frontage.
At 12.05 AM code message was received from the 12th Canadian Infantry Brigade to the effect that the Gas Attack and consequent Infantry Attack, which had been postponed for several days, would take place that morning. This was immediately communicated to the Companies also in code, and preparation for the assembly commenced. At 2.00 am Battalion Headquarters moved to Advanced Battalion Headquarters off UHLAN C.T. where comunication was established with Advanced Brigade Headquarters, and with both points of assembly. “B” and “D” Companies moved up from ARRAS ALLEY and asembled in dugouts in LIME STREET, dugouts on TUNNELLERS RIDGE, and in COBURG NO I TUNNEL, Major Brown 2nd in Command, being in charge of these two Companies which occupied the left half of the Battalion frontage. “A” and “C” Companies, forming the right half of the attack, moved out of the front line to the right where they assembled in BLUE BULL TUNNEL, Major H [P] Stanley being in charge of these two Companies for assembly. The dispositions for the attack were as follows :-
Right Half 1st Wave “A” Coy under Captain B. Simpson and Lieut D. H. Farnori.
Left Half 1st Wave “B” Coy under Captain H H Patch, and Lieuts G.H.H. Eadie and P.G. Hawkins.
VOL VIII, Page II
- March 1st
2nd Wave, “C” Coy under Lieut G. S. McLennan, Major Munroe and Lieut J. Norsworthy.
No. 1 Patrol, 1 Platoon of “D” Coy under Lieut. Griffiths.
No. 2 Patrol, 1 Platoon of “D” Coy under Lieut. Lester.
No. 3 Patrol, 1 Platoon of “B” Coy under Lieut Hutchinson.
At 2.55 a.m. messages were received from all Companies that they were in position.
At 3 am the first gas cloud, known as the “White Star Gas” was released. Within a few minutes after the release of the gas very heavy rifles and machine gun fires opened upo from the German front and support lines, and the sky was lit upo by hundreds of flares sent up by the Boche; this fire and the sending up of the flares continued for 36 minutes, showing that the gas was not effective. At about 3.06 am the Germans opened heavy Artillery fire across our whole front, which continued tunil 4.00 am at which time it died down and shortly afterwards the situation became almost normal. Soon after 4 o’clock the direction of the wind commenced to change, and by 5 am, which was the time for liberation of the 2nd Gas Wave, it was coming from almost due [North], so that it was decided
VOL VIII, Page III
- March 1st
that the gas could not be let off. The Infantry Attack was to commence at 5.40 AM. About 5.20 a message was received from Advanced Brigade Headquarters to the effect that there remained considerable gas in our front line trench for a distance extending 300 yard north of [C]RANBY C.T. This interfered with the assembly of our right attacking parties and instructions were immediately sent to Major Stanley to have “A” and “C” Companies assemble in front and behind the front line trench, and to proceed overland instead of assembling in the trench; this complicated the assembly of these two Companies very much, but the situation was admirably handled by Major Stanley. At 5.32 a.m. while the assembly across our whole front was in progress, heavy artillery fire was opened on our front and support lines and on ZOUAVE VALLEY by the Germans. It transpired that the Brigade on our right had commenced to get out over the parapet and form a line in front of our wire at 5.30 instead of waiting for our barrage which was to commence at 5.40 am; this was noticed by the Germans, who immediately sent up their “S.O.S.” with the foregoing result. This meant that the last 5 minutes of the assembly of our parties had to be completed under fire, and a number of casualties occurred before our men got out of our own trenches. On the righ casualties began to come into BLUE BULL
VOL VIII, Page IV
- March 1st
TUNNEL before much more than half of our attacking parties were out of the Tunnels. A few men were affected by gas on this front. Promptly at 5.40 AM our barrage opened up, and our attacking parties got over the parapet and went forward. On our extreme left our barrage was short, and some casualties were caused to our men by our own fire particularly among the party going out by way of Sap B6. A full account of the action of all attacking paties and the results obtained is attached hereto. Casualties soon began to come back to our lines, about 6.20 Lieut. Eadie reached Advanced Battalion Headquarters and about 6.50 Captain Patch also returned, both wounded slightly. Wounded came in steadily but it was a considerable time before it was possible to even approximately check up casualties. By 8 a.m. the situation had quieted down, except that several of our wounded accompanied by Lieut Hutchison were still out in shellholes beyond Sap B6. The artillery was called upon for a barrage on the German front line to enable these men to be got in, their fire however was short, and word was sent to have it stopped. During this fire Battalion Headquarters moved to the normal position in ZOUAVE VALEY and our own shells lit jut behind the personnel of Battalion Headquarters while moving down UHLAN C.T. It was for a time thought the Germans would counter attack, and this impression was increased by the fact that a German
VOL VIII Page V
- March 1st
aeroplane made several flights along our line net over 100 yards in the air, evidently observing the number of men in our line and their movements; all precautions were taken to beat off a counter attack, and it did not develope. During the day there continued a certain amount of enemy artillery activity, which, however, did not do any particular harm. That night it was decided to keep the whole Battalion on the eastern side of ZOUAVE VALLEY in case of attack, and the men of the Support Companies were accomodated in tunnels and dugouts on the Wester slope of the Ridge. The night, however, passed quietly. Many individual cases of outstanding bravery were noted during the action, especially Sgt. Millar and Sgt Holmden. During the attack 22 prisoners were taken by this Battalion, 19 of them being taken by Sgt Hannaford and Pte McLachlan. Officers and men without exception fought magnificently. Casualties during the action were as follow :-
Lieuts H P MacGregor, J W Lester, D A Farnori and [P] G Hawkins, Missing
Lieut J W. Griffiths – Died of Wounds
Capt. B Simpson, Capt. H H Patch and Lieuts G H H Eadie and G S McLennan – Wounded
26 OR Killed, 99 OR Wounded 27 OR Missing Total Casualties 161.
As a result of the operation two Officers were recommended for the D.S.O. four Officers for the M.C.
VOL VIII Page VI
- March 1st
…four OR’s for the D.C.M. and twelve OR’s for the M.M.
Notice received from Brigade that Lieuts. H [S] MacGregor and J H Christie ahd been awarded the Military Cross for their work in connection with the previous raid.
- March 2nd
During the night a number of parties were sent out into “NO MAN’S LAND” to bring in dead and wounded, and a number of bodies were recovered, these were all sent out and buried in VILLERS and BOIS Cemetery.
The day was fairly quiet, only the usual artillery and trench mortor activity. Large parties of men were employed carrying out empty gas cylinders, as well as those full ones which had not been let off on the 1st Mar. A great deal of work was also necessary, and was sone on those trenches which had been damaged by the enemy’s fire on the 1st. In the afternoon word was received that Hunt Griffiths had died of his wounds, and arrangements were made for representatives of the Battalion to attend his funeral on the 3rd.
- March 3rd
The early hours of the morning passed fairly quietly, but at 3 am the enemy opened up a heavy artillery and trench mortar fire on our front and support lines, doiing considerable damage. Our artillery retaliation was both slow and ineffective. The German fire caused no casualties, on OR Killed and one OR Wounded by our own Artillery.
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