Library and Archives Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Institutional links

ARCHIVED - Oral Histories of the First World War:
Veterans 1914-1918

Archived Content

This archived Web page remains online for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. This page will not be altered or updated. Web pages that are archived on the Internet are not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards. As per the Communications Policy of the Government of Canada, you can request alternate formats of this page on the Contact Us page.

Graphical element: Rendering first aid to a wounded Canadian soldier

Vimy Ridge

In this section:

Interview with D.M. Marshall: 44th Battalion
Transcript Excerpt, 10 minutes, 23 seconds

Q. Can you tell in as much detail as you can about Vimy, as you remember it.

A. Yes, I can. I recall that quite vividly. Vimy Ridge was one of our main battles of course, main battle for the whole of the Canadian forces but each unit had something special. Our whole brigade was held out of the line for the first day of the Vimy battle of April the 9th. We moved out of… it was Easter Sunday, April the 8th, beautiful day. And we moved out of the line, went up to the trenches, Coburg trench if I recall, and we were parked in there and we were to wait until we - until the results of the first day's show took place. Now Vimy Ridge is, is quite a prominent landmark in that part of France, but after all, looking at it after you've come back a few times over it, it is not too much of a hill. But in any case, it was steep on our side and sloped off on the other side to toward the Douai plain. But anyhow on April the 9th, the whole Canadian corps went over except the 12th, the 10th brigade of which we were the… one. And the reason they didn't go over, there were two really high spots on the ridge, one was Hill 145, and then at the left, extreme left of the ridge almost, was the Pimple. And they didn't want - our objective that we had been going over the tapes for was the Pimple - but they didn't want to put us into, onto, the Pimple or try for it until they made sure of the high ground at Hill 145, and as it turned out, they didn't make it, they didn't make it, Hill 140 - for they partially made it - they got part way up, partly it was pretty ragged. But anyhow next day, that was on the 10th, they moved our outfit out, the 50th, was on our left, and the 10th, that was, at least the 44th, ourselves. I don't know who was on our right, but anyhow about three o'clock in the afternoon, there was a most beautiful barrage opened up and we looked out to our left and we saw the 50th bn. going over the top and it was the most beautiful sight, just like in the book. And here we were sitting enjoying ourselves and it wasn't too long, oh maybe half an hour after that, the barrage had been finished and my commander came running along, M. Baker and said, "Look we've got to go over the top, and go over - top of this hill". I said, "When do we go?" He said, "Right now". Well, right now, and here are the fellows all sitting along the trench, you know, eating a little bullybeef, out of here and there, looking at the sun, their rifles leaning up against the parapet, all caved in of course, but anyhow I was full of vim and vinegar, grabbed a pistol and say, "Hurrah boys, we're away". Anyway we got away anyhow well we got away alright. And they, bunch-dropped everything that they had in their hands, and picked their rifles - I can remember them yet just looking at me with their eyes wide open, wondering what do we do next - anyhow we went, we went over the top and we bounced over from shell hole, to shell hole, in and out, and up and down, finally we got over to the bottom of the ridge without any opposition, but we did run into about - well when we got over to the bottom of this hill, they had a bunch of dugouts dug into the side of the hill and they were all these - well Germans, they were called different names - Heinie, squareheads, Heinzes, and what have you - but anyhow, they were all there and they thought the battle was over apparently because they were just sitting around in these shelters, in the entrances to their dugouts, and so I bang a couple of pistol shots, and of course that wakens them up and they all came out with their hands up, and there were some steps leading up to that trench, at least a path along the side of the hill leading up to the trench. And they had come toward me and go up the steps, in the meantime there was - oh, a couple of other fellows came along were with me, gradually there were about - my whole platoon before they got there. But it was fortunate for me that these other chaps were right with me. But anyhow we must have taken quite a few, and they were quite willing to quit. But that was the finish of the day, we got settled in and we were wandering up and down, and pretty soon the Germans that had gone over onto the flat started to shoot at us, and they were getting a few of us because we didn't have much shelter at all. We were on the down side of the hill, there was no shelter on this path, and mind you you were digging your nose pretty close into the ground there. Anyhow we did stick it there, and that night or the next - that night we were relieved and we moved off, and were down in the - oh we moved over towards the bottom of the Pimple for the next show, and that was the finish of the 10th. Now we started out that show with full strength, I had fifty men in my platoon, and we went over practically shoulder to shoulder on that first day. The Colonel directed it very nicely, open warfare practically - getting up to a - going over the ground that the other brigade had taken, and we got into this position on Hill 145. But anyhow I had 50 men to start with in that platoon, and to start out the second show on the Pimple, I had 25. And I think maybe there, there was one other officer left in the coy beside myself. Well then the Pimple show started, on the morning of the 11th, yes, we missed the 10th, came out and rested the 10th - it was early morning, pitch dark, and this was our home territory because on the Pimple, that was our area that we had been in and out of all winter.

Q. And that was what you had trained for on the tapes, was it?

A. That's what we had trained for on the tapes, but when we got up there there was nothing, you couldn't recognize anything it had been - it was just a quagmire, was churned into just muck all over. Anyhow we started out, and it started to snow like the dickens, just a regular blizzard, just when we were going, and you couldn't keep in line, I mean we had to skirt, there were a bunch of craters along there, and we had to skirt these craters to - part of my platoon was on the left of the craters, and another platoon of the same coy, no the next coy, was on the right of the crater - so we were told to skirt these craters and join up on the other side. Well we skirted the craters all right, and - but you couldn't keep in line at all - it was a matter of single file and everybody reaching back and pulling somebody out of the mud to keep up with the crowd. And we got really stuck in the mud there, but we got over. And we didn't meet much opposition there. And oh I think what saved us was the mud, because we got over the bottom of the Regina, I know I was - I went about 100 yards past the objective because you couldn't recognize anything. And I was reported missing, but I got back to where the line was at three o'clock in the afternoon, but in the meantime the mud was so bad that you couldn't stand still in any place, you'd have to move, or you'd sink practically. And they were shelling us then, pretty heavily, and the shells were bouncing around and they did no damage at all; they went into the mud and they blew up in the air. So nobody got hurt much. But even so, when we come out of that show and went back and got organized to go through, I was reduced to 13 men, and the only officer left in the coy, you see. Well then, we started to go through this, through Givenchy, that was the next town and we didn't have any casualties. We went through, we went through to this German trench that was back there, one of the old support trenches, and it was high and dry, and beautiful sunny weather, and nobody had any smokes. I had a pipe and a little tobacco and we sat around in a circle and passed this pipe around and everybody had a few puffs at it. Well that night, we were relieved by an English - a British outfit, and we really staggered out, because we were tired, and our feet were sore, and we got back to the area, where we had to cross these duckboards to cross the Souchez River, away back to where we were to rendezvous, and we were gathering up the odd Lewis gun, and I remember Les Moffat, he was an officer with another coy, and myself, we were so tired we couldn't walk this duckboard very well, and we were each carrying a Lewis gun, so we decided that we would each of us a gun - we would each take turns carrying the two guns, and the other one would steer the …, the two of us which we could do. So that's how we got out of that thing, and oh our feet were just terrible after that thing. Well that's the story of Vimy. We had a lot of casualties on there, but the … certainly did a good job.

Q. Well then you went on from there - were you in the May 9th, and the 10th show?

A. Yes.

Q. on the -

A. I --  that was known as the triangle. There were a lot of little fights going on there. You know the war, history is full of big battles, but the little fights that the brigadier had decided to put on, sort of sideshows, a nibble here and a nibble there, they were really the toughest on the outfit.